Peter Rice and Vet

November 29, 2014

29 November 2014 Peter Rice and Vet

I still have arthritis in my left toe I am stricken with gout. But I manage to get to the Vet with Fluff. Peter Rice turns up again.

Mary’s back much better today, breakfast weight down trout for tea and her tummy pain is still there.


Bernard Stonehouse was a polar scientist who braved atrocious weather to study king penguins in Antarctica

Bernard Stonehouse, polar scientist in the Antarctic

Bernard Stonehouse at the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge Photo: JOHN ROBERTSON

5:18PM GMT 28 Nov 2014


Bernard Stonehouse, who has died aged 88, was a polar scientist who studied king penguins on South Georgia and seabirds on Ascension Island; he was also one of the very few to have spent three consecutive winters in the Antarctic — and was lucky to have lived to tell the tale.

Stonehouse first went to Antarctica at the age of 20 in 1946 as a naval pilot seconded to the Falkland Islands Dependency Survey (FIDS, now the British Antarctic Survey). Based mainly at the survey’s Base E on Stonington Island, he also served as a meteorologist, dog sledder and, ultimately, biologist.

On September 15 1947 Stonehouse was on board as deputy pilot when the base’s Auster aircraft took off to mark out a safe landing spot for a larger American twin-engined aircraft which was about to undertake an extensive aerial survey. On the return flight, however, bad weather forced him and his two companions to make an emergency landing on sea ice, and the aircraft turned on its back after one of its skis hit an ice hummock. The three men emerged unscathed but were forced to pitch camp on the ice. They had only a small “pup” (two-man) tent, one sleeping bag, one inner bag and a tin of pemmican between the three of them.

After somehow surviving the first night and failing to attract the attention of a rescue aircraft with a flare, they decided to attempt to cover the 70 miles to base on foot. On the first day they travelled 10 miles, but then the snow set in. For the next few days they averaged only three or four miles a day, hauling their few belongings on a “sledge” improvised from the aircraft’s fuel tank, taking it in turns to use the sleeping bag and eking out the pemmican. Then they were hit by a ferocious gale which saw them huddling together in the tiny tent for three more days.

The gale was a mixed blessing, however, because when it abated it had scoured the sea ice and they were able to set off again. Seven days after their crash, they heard the welcome sound of an aircraft circling some miles away and decided to use their last flare to attract its attention. They were rescued by the American expedition’s Norseman aircraft. They were extremely tired and hungry, but otherwise largely unharmed.

Bernard Stonehouse was born in Hull on May 1 1926. Joining the Fleet Air Arm in 1944, he trained as a pilot, and in 1946 joined the FIDS, travelling to Stonington Island in the sealing ship Trepassey.

During his first year, apart from his close shave with the Auster, his meteorological duties kept Stonehouse mainly at the base. In his second year he took part in two long dog-sledge journeys, under the direction of Vivian (later Sir Vivian) Fuchs, who had taken over command of the base.

Bernard Stonehouse (third from left) celebrating Christmas Day, 1947, on Stonington Island

On the second of these journeys, to survey the coast of Adelaide Island to the north-west, the party covered a total distance of 500 miles. Stonehouse had a few unpleasant moments when he and another member of the party with their sledge broke through thin sea ice and were plunged into the icy water.

In 1949 Stonehouse was one of the so-called “lost 11”, the name given by the press to the men who had an enforced winter at the Stonington base after a relief ship was prevented from reaching them by thick sea ice. For Stonehouse and four others, it was the third consecutive winter in the Antarctic.

By the time he returned to Britain to read Zoology and Geology at University College, London, in 1950, Stonehouse had already carried out a pioneering piece of scientific research. The expedition to Adelaide Island had made the exciting discovery of an emperor penguin “rookery” on the Dion Islands, just off Adelaide’s south coast. At that time, only two other such rookeries were known.

From early June 1949, Stonehouse, supported by two companions, spent three months on the Dion Islands, living in tents in temperatures as low as -40C, to study the penguins during the winter breeding season, about which very little was known at the time. He gained valuable data on the breeding behaviour and embryology of the animals, observing their instinctive desire to hold an egg, or indeed any object of similar size.

On one occasion when a Leica camera was found to be missing, the thief was spotted waddling away with a leather strap trailing between its feet. A penguin, Stonehouse concluded, thinks that a human is a penguin who is “different, less predictable, occasionally violent, but tolerable company when he sits still and minds his own business”.

Doctoral research at the Edward Grey Institute of Field Ornithology and Merton College, Oxford, involved an 18-month field study of king penguins on South Georgia between 1953 and 1955. On his return Bernard married Sally, whom he had met in the University of London Air Squadron and with whom he departed, in 1957, to Ascension Island as leader of a British Ornithologists’ Union Centenary Expedition.

There, with a team of five companions, the Stonehouses spent 18 months studying seabirds on the island and on nearby Boatswain Bird Island, a 250ft-high, steep-sided column of weathered rock liberally festooned with white guano and surrounded by circling hammerhead sharks. The only landing point was a flat platform of rock 25ft above the churning water, with just enough room to build a hut with two camp beds. It was there that the couple spent their third wedding anniversary.

In 1960 Stonehouse moved to New Zealand as lecturer, and later reader, in Zoology at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, where he remained until 1968. During this time he led students on expeditions over five summers working out of New Zealand’s Scott Base, Ross Dependency, continuing his work on penguins, and visiting the classic breeding area of the emperor penguin at Cape Crozier.

After a year at Yale and a further year as a Commonwealth research fellow at the University of British Columbia, he returned to Britain, teaching biology at Strathallan School, Perthshire, while embarking on a serious writing career. In 1972 he moved to Bradford University, setting up the new School of Environmental Science there.

In 1982 he accepted the post of editor of the Polar Record, the journal of the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge. By this time, as well as scientific papers and reports, he had published several popular books on wildlife and the environment, including Animals of the Antarctic (1972) and an impressive volume of air photographs of the British countryside (1982), for which he provided the commentary. He thus brought to Cambridge a valuable knowledge of publishing, and he rapidly improved the style and format of the Polar Record, while attracting an impressive range of contributors.

After retiring as editor in 1992, he retained his connection with the Institute as a senior associate, forming its Polar Ecology and Management Group and heading a long-term study on the ecological impact of polar tourism, during which he took advanced students for five summer expeditions – to Cuverville and Hannah Point.

Stonehouse on a dog kennel roof with three of his expedition’s dogs in the Antarctic, 1947

Antarctic tourism, he concluded, was broadly positive if properly managed, in that it encourages a public interest in polar conservation. “On the whole,” he observed, “the tourists have done far less damage than some of the scientists who have had the run of the place since the 1950s.” He published the first travel book to the area, Antarctica: The Traveller’s Guide (1996); co-edited Prospects for Polar Tourism (2007); and worked as a popular lecturer on board tourist ships for more than 20 years.

His other publications include Wideawake Island: The story of the BOU centenary expedition to Ascension (1960); Penguins and Sea Mammals of the World (1985); and Antarctica and Global Climate Change (1991, edited with Colin Harris).

In 1953 Stonehouse received the Polar Medal. He is also commemorated in Stonehouse Bay on the east coast of Adelaide Island (first surveyed in 1909 by a French expedition and to which he led an FIDS sledge party to resurvey in 1948) and by Mount Stonehouse, a peak in the Transantarctic range.

Bernard Stonehouse is survived by his wife Sally and by their son and two daughters.

Bernard Stonehouse, born May 1 1926, died November 12 2014


Former Chief Whip Andrew Mitchelll arrives at the High Court Andrew Mitchell. ‘I can assure him we will be able to find a room for him where I work – a charity-run hostel for homeless people in Birmingham.’ writes Graham Hart. Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA

I am concerned about Andrew Mitchell and what will happen to him once he settles his debts, believed to be about £3m (He did say ‘pleb’: judge’s ruling leaves Mitchell’s career in ruins, 28 November). Handing over this much money could clearly leave him destitute, and he could lose his homes. However, I can assure him we will be able to find a room for him where I work – a charity-run hostel for homeless people in Birmingham. And it is only a short distance from his Sutton Coldfield constituency, should the fine people there choose to re-elect him.

We house about 170 people at present on one of our sites and about 200 on several more. You could say we are one of the few growth industries of recent times. It also means Mr Mitchell would get to know a few more “plebs” and the problems they face thanks to the actions of his government. He may even realise they are not just “people you step over on your way home from the opera”, as another Tory once said.
Graham Hart

• Mr Justice Mitting believed PC Toby Rowland rather than Andrew Mitchell over the “pleb” allegation, but his reasons for doing so were not very flattering. The officer, according to the judge, “is not the sort of man who had the wit, the imagination or the inclination” to “invent in the spur of the moment what a senior cabinet minister would have said to him”. I don’t know how PC Rowland feels, but I’d prefer to be called a pleb.
Donald Mackinnon
Newport, Gwent

• I think the judge is probably wrong there. I’m sure the PC could have managed to think of something if he’d wanted to. More to the point is that Mr Rowland was able to handle the challenging dilemma of telling right from wrong.
David Barford

• It will take more than one sensible legal decision to restore any faith I have in British justice, but the £1.5m bill shows how ludicrous the system is. At the same time, the fact that Mitchell brought the case shows what an arrogant person he is. And why was he demanding the gate be opened when he could easily have wheeled his bike through the side gate, or ridden it on the pavement like most cyclists would have done? But perhaps he was afraid the police might arrest him for that? What a waste of time, energy and effort, all for one little man’s ego.
David Reed

• Ill-advised or capricious as the decision to sue for libel may have been, I just don’t understand how the costs of such a relatively short trial can amount to anything like £1.5m – £1.5m represents 15 years’ labour at a relatively generous salary of £100k per year. Very nice work if you can get it.
Andy Smith
Kingston upon Thames, Surrey

• Parliament is currently passing a bill designed to enable electors to recall MPs who have behaved badly. Andrew Mitchell has been found to have behaved badly. Yet the bill in its present form would not enable the electors of Sutton Coldfield to decide if they would like him to remain as their MP. Would it not make for better accountability if it did?
Tony Wright

• Now that the Andrew Mitchell libel trial has concluded, I do hope Bob Geldof (a character witness for Mitchell) will not be raising funds by releasing a song titled Legal Aid or something similar.
Kapil Juj

• Perhaps all those commenting on the Mitchell affair should recall that the post of tribune of the plebs was one of the most honourable and sought after in the Roman republic?
Dugald MacInnes

• In all the reports about “plebgate”, no one has explained why Andrew Mitchell was told to dismount at the gates of Downing Street and wheel his bicycle awkwardly through a side gate. There were three able-bodied policemen standing around on a rather tedious duty. Surely one of them could have made the modest effort to open the main gate and let him cycle through?
John Birtill
Guisborough, North Yorkshire

• What a pity that Andrew Mitchell didn’t have a taxi following his bicycle, the better to carry his government documents as he cycled across London. Then we might have had a complete recording of the encounter at the gates.
Bob Caldwell
Daventry, Northamptonshire

• I can’t help feeling a shred of sympathy with Mitchell’s angry “pleb” moment. It is mild compared with David Mellor’s considered diatribe to the taxi driver. Could one imagine any more offensive piece of elitist narcissism than that?
Betty Rosen

Francis ‘The Bible exhorts society to ‘Honour thy father and mother’, not, as Pope Francis has been portrayed as doing, dissing the lot,’ writes Hilary Cooper. Photograph: Markus Schreiber/AP

Is it just me or was there something just a touch offensive in Pope Francis’s (otherwise laudable) speech on Europe’s alleged demise, picking out, as it did, words such as tired, haggard, infertile, grandmother to get his point across (Report, 26 November)? We live in an ageing world and yet insist on the glorification of youth. Why should age be associated with lack of worth, absence of creativity and value?

Older people in our society are vigorous and active in so many ways, many still working or offering their experience for free as volunteers, others simply and uncomplainingly accepting the sheer graft of their invisible but increasingly necessary role as carers.

And yes, it is possible to be old, infertile and a grandparent and yet to be extraordinarily creative. Why else is London currently hosting exhibitions on the late Rembrandt and the late Turner, hot on the heels of the stunning exhibition of the mature Hockney’s creative outpourings, if not in recognition of the power of late-flowering genius, as in the burnishing sunsets of a Turner masterpiece?

Time was when to be called a grandmother, an elder, was a mark of respect for the wisdom and experience that came with age, a nod perhaps to that maxim reportedly coined by George Bernard Shaw (no doubt in later life), that “youth is wasted on the young”. The Bible exhorts society to “Honour thy father and mother”, not, as Pope Francis has been portrayed as doing, dissing the lot.
Hilary Cooper

• So the pope, the head of the Roman Catholic church, believes the EU has become “elderly and haggard” and gives “a general impression of weariness and ageing”. The words which come to mind are kettle, pot and black.
George Steel

Cricket lovers everywhere would wish to contribute to any fund in memory of Phillip Hughes – perhaps to advance research into head injuries (Sport, 28 November) and head protection. But it might also support the millions of cricketers across the world who play on dangerous surfaces without protection because it’s too dear.
Richard Heller

• So many adverts on TV and in the media show dinner tables groaning under mountains of food. What must go through the minds of people who’ll have next to nothing at Christmas, apart from perhaps bangers and mash, if even that?
Sigrid Morrison

• Has this subject got legs (Letters, 26 November), or will it be just another case of hare today gone tomorrow?
Ken Atkin
Richmond, Middlesex

Labour Leader Ed Miliband Makes A Speech In Defence Of His Leadership Ed Miliband. ‘While attempts are being made to portray Labour as a remote elite, it’s worth remembering that 85% of Labour MPs elected or re-elected in 2010 had been to state schools,’ writes Janet Dobson. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

I understand there may be a question mark over whether Labour remains the party of working people (Miliband pledge to white van man, 22 November)? Lets looks at some facts. Labour introduced the national minimum wage and tax credits for the lowest paid workers, and increased them year on year. Labour ensured that all fulltime workers received four weeks’ paid leave, plus bank holidays, from their employers.

Labour doubled maternity leave for mothers and introduced two weeks’ paternity leave for fathers. Labour built over 2,000 Sure Start centres to help support parents and children in the most deprived areas. Labour cut NHS waiting times from months, if not years, to the lowest they have ever been – an average of 18 weeks. Older NHS users may even remember that Labour built the NHS – an historic but not unimportant fact. Labour also helped the poorest pensioners by introducing winter fuel payments, the pensioner credit and minimum income guarantee. And can you recall how expensive it was to see a private dentist? So Labour reintroduced NHS ones.

These are really important gains for working people. They don’t happen by magic. They were legislated for and driven through by a Labour government. Despite what they say now, all were opposed by the Tories. Is Labour still the party of working people? Of course it is.
David Bodimeade
Rayleigh, Essex

• Another week, another set of briefings and Twitter exchanges about inner-party politics within Labour – what’s new (Watson ‘manipulated Labour leader contests’, 24 November)? David Lammy accurately captures part of the problem by suggesting that too many supporters and past voters feel distanced from and out of tune with the party. This will not change until he and others address the principal question – how will voting Labour change our society? Reading the obituary of Tony Lynes (Obituary, 24 November) and the work he did within and outside of Whitehall was a poignant reminder that there was a time when electing a Labour government would make a difference.

Then the speculative piece on Gordon Brown’s future told us that, flawed though he may have been, there were nevertheless reasons for voting Labour fairly recently (Brown to quit?, 24 November). Frankly I don’t give a damn whether Tom Watson or Ivan Lewis back different horses in the race, if it resembles a donkey derby – let’s have a few thoroughbred ideas.
Les Bright
Exeter, Devon

• What is most depressing about Labour now is not just the silly pratfalls, poor speeches or stupid childish gimmicks. It’s that they can only pay attention to old self-limiting white-men, Ukip and the Tories. The media is strangely fixated too; but that a large so-called progressive party should ignore the Greens, SNP and Plaid Cymru, when they could work together in coalition to create our peaceful move into a better, healthier society, is a disgrace.

Maybe it’s that at least two of those parties are led by women? I’d remind Ed and his advisers that women dislike both the Tories and Ukip by a huge margin and we are half the population. Why doesn’t Labour look north for inspiration since they’re not listening to their own women? When Nicola Sturgeon took office she announced she was going to discuss and work with all members of her assembly.
Olivia Byard
Witney, Oxfordshire

• So Labour’s answer to the anti-egalitarian independent/state school divide is to introduce a “school partnership standard” requiring private schools to form “genuine and accountable partnerships with state schools if they want to keep their business rates relief”. Because, apparently, the independent sector displays “world-beating educational attributes” beyond the advantages that come with selection and wealth, “that those working in the state sector could do more to acknowledge”. According to Tristram Hunt (Comment, 25 November), teachers in the independent sector display superior subject knowledge, private schools provide greater “pupil confidence” and better “co-curricular activities”, as if these have nothing to do with funding and resources, and better staff development, though no evidence is provided to support this claim, or the others.

The truth is the independent sector has nothing to offer the state sector that it couldn’t do for itself, with similar funding and social mix of pupils. To suggest that it does is deeply insulting to teachers who have to cope with the multiple problems that too many of their pupils experience in the divided society they live in. Which sector does Hunt suppose is teaching the children of the 900,000 odd households dependent on food banks?
Tim Davies
Lytham St Annes, Lancashire

• The tweet by Emily Thornberry exemplifies the patronising and elitist attitude we have come to know and expect from the Labour party in general and Islington’s champagne-socialist set in particular. I personally have no doubt exactly what was meant by her odious tweet, it was a snobbish and condescending insult to the ordinary working folk whom the Labour party claim to represent. Frankly, I am impressed how Ms Thornberry managed to distil into such a short tweet of three words the very essence of Labour’s elitist snobbery.As a direct result of “tweetgate”, the Ukip branch in Islington and Hackney has now made it our urgent mission to stand up for the ordinary working people that Labour has forgotten and Ms Thornberry has insulted.
Pete Muswell
Vice-chair, Ukip Islington and Hackney branch

• Whatever happened to the party that used to defend the weak against the strong? And why should a woman from a council estate be sacked for taking a photo of the house of a man who cannot remember the last time he voted?
David Handy

• John Harris (Comment, 21 November) says “Labour believes it can speak to two different audiences without either noticing”. With a first-past-the-post system, all political parties do this. UK elections are won by winning most of the 100-odd marginal seats, so the main political parties use focus groups to design policies for the voters in the marginal seats, not for the voters in the safe seats, which never change hands.  I’ve made the point in my own blog, that the 1832 Reform Act created parliamentary seats in the new industrial towns and abolished the rotten boroughs with a tiny electorates, often controlled by one individual. The safe seats are today’s rotten boroughs, controlled by a small party caucus, who select a candidate who is then foisted on the electorate.

The real question for May 2015 is whether the stench of corruption and incompetence, given off by the politicians of the main political parties, is strong enough to make safe seats unsafe. In Scotland the SNP will make inroads into Labour safe seats. Can the Green party now make real inroads into the Labour heartlands in England?
Michael Gold
London @radicalmic

• I agree with Polly Toynbee (Labour must fight off these bogus Tory attacks on class, 25 November) that it is not necessary to attend a state school or be poor to care about poverty and inequality. However, while attempts are being made to portray Labour as a remote elite, it’s worth remembering that 85% of Labour MPs elected or re-elected in 2010 had been to state schools, compared to 60% of Lib Dems and 46% of Tories. Two-thirds went to comprehensives. No Etonians.
Janet Dobson


When Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said in the Commons he had chosen A&E over the GP for his children (report, 26 November), I imagine parents across the country were sympathetic. Every parent wants their child to be seen quickly by a healthcare professional when they are ill, and for many the default option – whether due to opening hours, waiting times or convenience – is A&E.

Hospitals are too often seen as the place to be despite the Government urging A&E attendance only in real emergencies. We estimate up to 16 per cent of children who arrive in A&E could have their care effectively managed outside hospitals.

The question is, what are the alternatives? What should you do if your child is ill in the evening and, although you suspect it’s not too serious, you’re worried enough to want medical advice immediately?

Extending GP opening hours is one part of the solution, but more needs to be done to move more care for children outside hospitals. That means measures such as better child-health training for GPs and co-locating services in community settings – creating “child health hubs” where GPs, paediatricians, nurses and other professionals can provide high-quality local provision.

Unless we start thinking about delivering health differently and providing viable alternatives, the A&E crisis will continue to worsen.

Dr Hilary Cass

President, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, London WC1

It beggars belief that Jeremy Hunt is unaware of the arrangements for GP consultations at the weekend. All practices have out-of-hours services which can be contacted by telephone at weekends and at night time. Usually a call to the practice will be directed to a doctor who is either a member of the practice or employed by them and a visit to an out-of-hours service can be arranged if necessary. I first worked as a GP in 1983 and ever since then out-of-hours cover has been available.

It is hard to have any confidence in a health minister who has so little knowledge of how the system works.

Dr Margaret Safranek

London N10

I read with interest your report of Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s defence of his decision to take his children to an A&E department, in direct contradiction of HMG’s advice that we present ourselves to our GP or out-of-hours service if the problem isn’t life threatening.

Whatever the particular circumstances, the cruel irony is that, had there been no successful legal challenge to Mr Hunt’s acceptance of the South London Healthcare Trust Special Administrator’s recommendation that Lewisham Hospital’s A&E department be closed, he wouldn’t have had the luxury of such a choice, assuming that the problem had occurred here.

Jeremy Redman

London SE6

As Jeremy Hunt seems only to have insight into those issues in which he has had personal experience, perhaps he would like to work a few 12-hour shifts on an acute medical ward.

I think he would be awarding himself that 1 per cent pay rise within no time.

David Bennetts

Blandford Forum, Dorset


Palestine should embrace the ICC

Tomorrow marks two years since Palestine was granted non-member observer state status at the UN. The 138-9 vote paved the way for the bilateral recognitions of Palestinian statehood that have swept across Europe of late (“European Parliament considers initiative to recognise Palestine”,  26 November).

It also opened the door to international justice, by further clarifying that Palestine can become a party to the Rome Statute, and thus bring itself under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

ICC accession would mean all actors, including Palestinian armed groups and the Israeli authorities, could be held to account for commission of war crimes in Gaza and beyond, and the missing ingredient of accountability would be introduced to this too-long running conflict.

And yet, the Palestinians have so far declined go to the ICC. Their reluctance can, in part, be put down to misguided pressure from Europeans not to do so, which runs counter to EU support for the Court in other cases.

Two years ago, Palestine’s President Mahmoud Abbas said the UN vote showed “that justice is possible”. As the region continues to be gripped by violence and deep mistrust, the prospects of such justice remain elusive.

European countries must now lift their opposition to ICC jurisdiction on the situation, which would help end impunity and bring justice for Palestinian and Israeli victims of crimes under international law.

William Bell

Senior Advocacy officer, Middle East, Christian Aid

Annemarie Gielen

Secretary General,  Pax Christi Flanders

José Henriquez

Secretary General,  Pax Christi International

Lieve Herijgers

Director, Broederlijk Delen

Karim Lahidji

President, FIDH (International Federation  for Human Rights)

Philip Luther

Director, Middle East and North Africa Programme, Amnesty International

Mitchell case is a triumph for justice

Andrew Mitchell’s case (28 November) proves that no one is above the law in this land. Britain stands as a beacon of justice and human rights. The country has always been a haven for those fleeing racial, social and religious persecution, oppression, intimidation and corruption. Perhaps this is the most intriguing part of its success story throughout centuries.

Where else on earth can you find a country where the rulers and the ruled stand on an equal footing before the law? The alternative to this is what we are witnessing in Ukraine, the Central African Republic, Iraq, Syria, Libya, the occupied Palestinian territories, and even in Ferguson in the US.

As John Locke, one of the greatest English philosophers and enlightenment thinkers, eloquently put it: “Whenever law ends, tyranny begins”.

Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob

London NW2

The verdict in the Andrew Mitchell trial is bad news for all those who believe the class struggle is dead. It seems clear that the battle between patricians and plebs that the historian EP Thompson identified as a key feature of 18th-century England is with us still.

Keith Flett

London N17

Andrew Mitchell has been found guilty because, the judge said, the police officer in question did not have the “wit or imagination” to make up the damning phrases… Mmm – I think I would have preferred to have been called a pleb.

Tony Webb



Who should pay for the UK’s veterans?

Your efforts to raise awareness and cash for war veterans are laudable. However, it is not the general public who sent troops to war. I suggest that the governments that did do so should be responsible for any related problems in the future, and fund this through the taxation system. This could be done simply by creating a patriotic tax and hypothecating the money for veterans only. This could be collected through the current system and might have the added benefit of shaming tax avoiders.

Why not impose a windfall tax on the companies that made billions from the wars, to cover these costs?

William Park

Kilsby, Northamptonshire

Well, it didn’t take long for the party leaders to pledge support for your appeal.

While I support your appeal I strongly feel that you do a disservice to veterans if you fail to highlight that tens of thousands of ex-service personnel would not require charity if successive governments had not robbed them of their pensions.

The history of the Armed Forces Pension Group campaign is well documented; it has had plenty of support, with even Cherie Blair involved in our legal fight, which we lost!

It’s a disgrace how politicians evade dealing with this inequality and pay lip service to veterans.

Francis Vincent

Market Bosworth, Leicestershire


Balls aimed at players are just not cricket

While wholeheartedly extending deepest condolences to Phil Hughes’s family and colleagues and indeed sympathy to Sean Abbott, the tragedy is a sharp reminder of the real dangers of cricket and bouncers in particular. Once upon a time, bowling which was a direct attack on a batsman was outlawed, but nowadays hardly a test match goes by without the spectacle of batsmen being subject to what the commentators call “a good working over” or some such euphemism which in reality means a barrage of short stuff imperilling life and limb.

Is it too much to hope that head-high bouncers will be definitely outlawed (maybe with a five-run penalty at least) so that we may enjoy a contest between bat and ball rather than having to watch ducking and weaving in avoidance of deliveries persistently and deliberately aimed at a batsman?

Andrew Horton

Hemel Hempstead, Hert


Sir, You argue that the Smith Commission report could be a significant step towards a federal Britain (“The Price of Union”, Nov 28). That is unlikely: first, because England does not want federalism, and second, because no federal state known to me hands control of income tax to a sub-national unit.

Devolving control of income tax to the Scottish parliament is illogical, since revenue from the tax pays not only for devolved services such as health and education but also for reserved services, such as foreign policy, defence and pensions.

Were Smith to be implemented, Scottish MPs at Westminster would lose responsibility for the main tax paid by their constituents. Further, the prime minister has argued that Smith makes the case for English votes for English laws “unanswerable”. If Scottish MPs no longer voted on parts of the budget they would in effect be steered towards an exit from Westminster.

The SNP adopts a policy of “English votes for English laws” since it is separatist. It is odd that some unionists support a similar policy. Unionists should be seeking to bring the Scottish and English systems together. If implemented, the Smith proposals would be in danger of giving Scottish separatists — through the back door — what they failed to gain through the front door in September’s referendum.

Vernon Bogdanor

Professor of government, King’s College London

Sir, Nicola Sturgeon is “disappointed” at the Smith commission’s proposals (“SNP wants more power and vows to fight for it”, Nov 28). The commission was set up to create a more federal Britain by enhancing the powers of the Scottish parliament. The recommendations in fact go further than the original “vow” promised by Gordon Brown.

The proposals, far from being a Westminster betrayal, deliver on the home rule that was promised to Scotland and can bring about a stronger Scotland within a new federal United Kingdom.

William Beddows
St Andrews

Sir, It is understandable why the latest proposals for fiscal devolution to Scotland are encouraging ever greater demands for “English votes for English laws”. However, this is an answer to the “West Lothian question” which will not work, and should be rejected.

Enoch Powell described creating first and second-class MPs as “an abomination”, and he was right. As he explained, “no line of demarcation can be drawn in a unitary state between one set of subjects and another . . . a debate on defence is also a debate on education.”

Rather than demote Scotland’s MPs to “second-class” status, they should simply be reduced in number.

Richard Ritchie

London SW18

Sir, The only fair way of devolving power in the UK is to devolve it identically to each of the four nations, including England. We must now have an English parliament at Westminster. However, we cannot afford to have further palaces and politicians, so this should be made up of existing English MPs.

A separate UK parliament, formed by a sub-set of existing English MPs, MSPs, Welsh and Northern Ireland Assembly members, selected in proportion to their population and party support, can meet as required, on days when the devolved assemblies do not sit, in existing parliamentary or assembly facilities to deal only with UK-wide issues.

The UK government should be determined by the majority party in the UK parliament, with ministers responsible for UK-wide departments such as foreign affairs and defence. The English government should be formed by the majority party in the English parliament with a first minister and ministers responsible for devolved departments such as the NHS.

Martin Herbert

Great Waltham, Essex

Sir, The majority of Scots voted for the Union and against the SNP and their proposals in the referendum, and yet it looks as though we are now being railroaded against our will into making huge concessions driven by political need and the spectre of a May election next year.

The eventual fierce tax regime will drive business and homeowners away. Who will protect an unrepresented majority that is now disenfranchised and who do not want any of this?

Stephen M Fielding

Kirkbrae, Galashiels

Sir, The Scots want Barnett formula spending levels or even more and they want the opportunity to pay the higher taxes that such benefits and other spending require. What’s not to understand? What’s to argue with?

David J Cashman

Sir, Labour’s university-focused education polices are in danger of leaving the country without the skills to keep the economy moving forward (“This mindless dash for degrees is pointless”, Ross Clark, Nov 26).

While graduates are battling for a handful of opportunities, trade businesses cannot find enough trained and experienced workers. Students should train in the workplaces of their chosen profession. In my industry, through apprenticeships, it’s the only way forward. Creating a fully-funded, national apprenticeship scheme will provide employers with a skilled workforce that can take businesses forward.
Charlie Mullins
Chief executive, Pimlico Plumbers, London SE11

Sir, A university experience is good for individuals, society and the economy. University students are tomorrow’s teachers, doctors, nurses, engineers, business leaders, entrepreneurs and inventors. Students build global connections, experience different cultures and are exposed to a range of arguments and opinions.

The UK university sector offers degrees co-created with employers, work placements, online and part-time learning. I am sure, despite never looking at his degree certificate, Mr Clark’s university experience enriches his life on a daily basis.
Nicola Dandridge
Chief executive, Universities UK

Sir, After reading the first paragraph of your leader (“Beauty Sleep”, Nov 27) I was (I am reliably informed) already snoring.

Lindsay GH Hall

Theale, Berks

Sir, Arthur is not the first dog to attach himself to a long-distance event (“Amazing jungle tale of Arthur the dogged adventurer”, Nov 25). In the 1970s a dog joined a team in the 50-mile Tour de Trigs hike in Oxfordshire. At the end, the dog was handed to the warden of a scout campsite. “Trigs” saw out his days as a much-loved member of the camp staff.
Trevor E Parry
Banbury, Oxon

Sir, Shakespeare would have loved the debate on whether his sonnets reveal homosexual love as well as heterosexual (“Shakespeare in Love . . . with a man?”, Nov 27). He loved to play with the sensibilities of his audience: in Twelfth Night he endorses love for Viola both as man and woman and in The Merchant of Venice he portrays Antonio favouring a man with his eye on the main heterosexual chance.

David Day

Pontefract, W Yorks

Sir, Labour’s university-focused education polices are in danger of leaving the country without the skills to keep the economy moving forward (“This mindless dash for degrees is pointless”, Ross Clark, Nov 26).

While graduates are battling for a handful of opportunities, trade businesses cannot find enough trained and experienced workers. Students should train in the workplaces of their chosen profession. In my industry, through apprenticeships, it’s the only way forward. Creating a fully-funded, national apprenticeship scheme will provide employers with a skilled workforce that can take businesses forward.
Charlie Mullins
Chief executive, Pimlico Plumbers, London SE11

Sir, A university experience is good for individuals, society and the economy. University students are tomorrow’s teachers, doctors, nurses, engineers, business leaders, entrepreneurs and inventors. Students build global connections, experience different cultures and are exposed to a range of arguments and opinions.

The UK university sector offers degrees co-created with employers, work placements, online and part-time learning. I am sure, despite never looking at his degree certificate, Mr Clark’s university experience enriches his life on a daily basis.
Nicola Dandridge
Chief executive, Universities UK


Scottish devolution; Miliband’s mansion tax; school politics of envy; and the risks and romance of Marigolds

People fly the British and Scottish flags outside the Scottish Parliament prior to the debate on the future of Scotland

The Smith Commission will unveil proposals to give the Scottish Parliament a swathe of new tax and welfare powers Photo: Alamy

7:00AM GMT 28 Nov 2014


SIR – All three main Westminster parties have already agreed to the Smith Commission proposals for significantly increased devolved powers for Scotland. These go beyond what was understood to have been promised shortly before the September referendum.

They retain the nonsense of Scottish MPs being able to vote on matters affecting the rest of the United Kingdom where powers have been fully devolved to Scotland. To someone who is English, this proposal, with agreement before it is even put before the House of Commons, seems to be the ultimate nightmare – ensuring that a greater portion of my English taxes goes to Scotland than ever before.

The proposals appear to be completely unfair, not to mention unconstitutional and undemocratic.

I cannot believe that our politicians are so out of touch with reality and so scared of the independence lobby in Scotland.

It will only take a half-sensible proposal from Ukip to modify these proposals into something more reasonable to see English voters flocking behind Nigel Farage’s party at the next general election.

Andrew Robinson
Ecclesfield, South Yorkshire

SIR – If a cross-party deal is to give more power to Scottish MPs, why should we not have equivalent powers in Hampshire? Hampshire, which dates from AD  755, is older than England itself.

Michael Fielding
Winchester, Hampshire

SIR – We are told constantly that one of the main problems with the eurozone is lack of fiscal convergence, and here we are encouraging fiscal divergence in our little sterling zone. This is yet another nonsense emanating from our panicking politicians.

John Kellie
Pyrford, Surrey

SIR – The Smith recommendations ensure that Scottish ministers are fully involved in agreeing the UK position in EU negotiations relating to devolved policy matters. Sadly, however, this does not extend to reserved matters which will affect Scotland.

Should the other devolved administrations disagree with the Westminster line, there is no means of arbitration to resolve this, unlike the situation in Belgium. In that country the regions and communities have been given powers, through a co-operation agreement, to represent a common Belgian position at Council of Minister meetings, but, should views differ, there is a mechanism in place to try and resolve this.

Alex Orr

SIR – Is the Government seriously going to allow the Scottish Government to set its own income tax and still subsidise it through the Barnett formula?

Bill Halket
Ormskirk, Lancashire

Harm of net migration

SIR – The latest statistics about UK immigration reveal that 583,000 mostly poorer immigrants arrived and 323,000 mostly wealthier people left. This illustrates the negative impact that migration is having on the wealth of Britain.

Gordon Black
Stockport, Cheshire

SIR – Nobody seems to be explaining what the net immigration figure of 260,000 people a year really means. It is a city the size of, say, Derby (or Brighton or Hull).

Who is building each year the houses, schools, hospitals, police and fire stations, sewage plants and prisons for such a city?

Politicians and others bandy statistics with gay abandon, but we cannot accept immigration on this scale without building the infrastructure; and we cannot build a city this size in the United Kingdom every year. It is madness.

Patrick Fossett
Cobham, Surrey

SIR – It has been a pretty awful 24 hours for David Cameron – Scottish devolution proposals, benefit payments being used fraudulently to finance jihadists, immigration up by 78,000 a year.

Can’t he and other British politicians sort out Britain’s problems instead of trying to sort out everybody else’s? Let’s start by slashing foreign aid.

David Booth
Macclesfield, Cheshire

SIR – “No ifs, no buts”, I will be voting for Ukip at the forthcoming general election.

Roger Castle

SIR – First they came for the immigrants from outside Europe. Then they came for the (almost non-existent) EU immigrants who come here just to claim welfare.

Now they’re after the EU working poor (getting rid of tax credits for hardworking immigrants in menial jobs).

I’m an Irish immigrant who’s worked hard and paid taxes here for almost 20 years. I wonder when it will be my turn.

David Clarke

School politics of envy

Tristram Hunt said David Cameron was failing in his ‘basic responsibility’ to provide good teachers. Photo: Rex Features

SIR – Tristram Hunt should descend from his political high horse, drop the politics of envy and visit King’s College School, Wimbledon, which takes pride in close links to the local community and whose amenities are fully used by those outside the school.

I know: I went there and my sons have gone there. Believe me, I am no rich oligarch and there have been years of financial difficulty to afford this choice.

Tony Parrack
London SW20

SIR – Mr Hunt is advocating private-school teachers (some unqualified) should go into state schools to show state-school teachers (qualified) how to teach.

What does that say about the standard of the state-school teachers?

Denise Taylor
Glossop, Derbyshire

SIR – Mr Hunt is right to have high expectations of independent schools, but he is behind the times, as much of what he hopes for is already in place.

Benenden sponsors a local academy, sharing resources, expertise and time, in a growing and reciprocal relationship. We offer Ucas support, share staff training and run a well-established mentor programme conducted by the students themselves.

We also play a part in a county-wide programme of Easter and summer residential schools for the brightest students from Kent academies.

Alfred Nicol
Benenden School
Benenden, Kent

SIR – I am patriotic, hence I support England teams. I own a white van for the purpose of work, and pay independent school fees for my children.

It now appears that for all three of these activities (and maybe others too) I am despised by the Labour Party. The feeling is mutual.

Dominic Cummings
London SE15

Dangerous cricket

SIR – We can get rockets millions of miles into space but we can’t seem to provide a safe cricket helmet.

Patrick Moroney

SIR – Bouncers should be outlawed. It is pure aggression against the batsman and quite unsportsmanlike.

Sir Gavin Gilbey Bt
Dornoch, Sutherland

Burning money

SIR – I am beginning to wonder if I have unwittingly become part of a government money-laundering scheme. On the same day that my £200 winter fuel payment arrived in my bank account, the local council removed most of it by direct debit into their coffers as council tax for the month – no doubt to help with the heating of their offices.

Chris Bocock
Quorn, Leicestershire

One-track franchises

SIR – With a joint venture between Stagecoach and Virgin picked to run the East Coast Mainline service, the three main routes to the North (West Coast, Midland Main Line and East Coast) are now to be run by Stagecoach and Virgin. What’s the point of a privatising franchise system that hands control to a duopoly? They might as well be run as they were by British Rail.

Bill Jolly

Too many flaws in Miliband’s mansion tax

SIR – A property can only be valued accurately when it is sold. A house near mine was recently put on the market for £2.1 million but sold for £1.9 million. If mansion tax had been in operation, would tax have been levied on the asking price? Would the owner be entitled to a refund when the selling price fell short?

In the property market there are always huge fluctuations. A property worth

£2 million today could be worth much less if the market crashes. How will mansion tax be calculated if a crash occurs half way through the financial year?

As a practitioner in tax for over 50 years I believe this to be the most ill-conceived tax I have ever come across. Its main purpose is to convince the electorate that the Labour Party is on the side of the “poor”.

David Turner
Brookmans Park, Hertfordshire

SIR – If Angelina Jolie is put off buying a £25 million house in London because of mansion tax proposals, perhaps she should buy a similarly priced property in Hollywood, where the property tax could be as much as £250,000 a year and increase by up to 2 per cent a year.

Mike Evans
Shalford, Surrey

The rare risks and romance of Marigold gloves

Foot in glove: creative home-made chicken costumes . Photo: Getty Images/Flickr RF

SIR – The reason to get rid of a pair of rubber gloves is because they have developed a hole. I have never been scalded, because the water cools down before it gets to your hand.

Oven gloves do wear out at the end of the fingers, but far more dangerous is the oven itself. Or, come to think of it, the iron. Is Brussels going to invent an oven and an iron that do their jobs without getting hot?

Margaret Bentley

SIR – Lady Coward is unaware of injuries caused by Marigolds. While recovering from a rugby-induced cracked rib some years ago I had a rare go at washing up. Removing a wife-sized Marigold with great difficulty, my hand recoiled and struck me directly on the injury.

Robin Hargreaves
Trawden, Lancashire

SIR – Marigolds can have a very strange effect on men. I was once with my now husband at a nature reserve planting reeds and wearing my Marigolds when he looked up at me, thought for a moment, and said: “I think we should get married.”

Joyce Corlett
Higher Poynton, Cheshire

Keep off the grass

SIR – I recently read that a cull of wild boar is intended as they are damaging the Forest of Dean. I also read that some scientists are anxious to clone mammoths. This must be of concern to golfers and members of bowling clubs.

John Buggins
Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands

Irish Times:

Sir, – I found Keith Duggan’s article (“Is rugby in danger of becoming a brilliantly-coached bore?”, November 22nd) to be an excellent assessment of the current professional rugby game. He, however, sees the halcyon days of the amateur era through somewhat rose-tinted glasses. The “up your jumper” 10-man rugby so expertly played by Munster, and to some extent by Ireland, through many of those amateur years was just as boring as the modern game.

I have two suggestions to help make the current game more exciting and to encourage more individual flare.

Firstly, to provide more open space in which to attack, reduce the number of players or increase the size of the pitch. Secondly, to encourage the team in possession to take more risk and use its creativity, change the laws at breakdowns and restarts so that it is much less likely that the team in possession retains the ball. At the moment that likelihood is almost at 100 per cent stupid. – Yours, etc, ADRIAN O’CONNOR Tai Tam, Hong Kong.

Sir, – The recent decision by the Equality Tribunal to recommend promotion of a NUIG academic Dr Sheehy Skeffington and to award damages to her in the context of what they described as a “ramschackle” promotion process (“NUI Galway ordered to promote lecturer overlooked over gender”, November 18th) raises questions about the role of the Higher Educational Authority (HEA).

It has responsibilities under the Universities Act (1997) to promote gender balance.

It also has responsibilities to return figures to the EU to enable the strength of the “glass ceiling” in public universities to be compared.

In that context, the very least one would expect is that the HEA would publish academic staff data broken down by gender and level for each of the seven Irish public universities.

After failing to do this from 2004-2012, it did so in January 2013. However the annual report in 2014 again omitted this.

What gets measured gets done. – Yours, etc, PAT O’CONNOR Professor of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Limerick.

Sir, – Your editorial (November 27th) on “a critical situation worsening as high rents compound problems for the disadvantaged”, underlines that the housing rental market in Ireland is dysfunctional.

If the rental market functioned as it does in Belgium for example, the supply could meet demand or even exceed demand and rent increases would be controlled.

I lived and rented there for a number of years. While no system is perfect, a standard lease is based on a three-six- nine-years principle, where rent can only be increased at the beginning of each three- year stage.

After each three-year period the landlord can ask the tenant to leave if the owner wants the property for a family member but must give six months notice, pay the tenant three- months rent if ejected after a three-year lease and six -months rent after a six-year lease period. Leases are registered with the finance ministry and can only be increased in line with the consumer price index .

What’s in it for the landlord? Tax on rental income is low and based not on the rent but on a notional cadastrel income level; the base for which is reset every 15 years. The result is a very low effective tax rate, whcih on a notional rental income of €1,000-€1,500 per month can be as low as 10 per cent.

It appears that this tax regime encourages investment in property to let, thus creating a healthy supply-side market and keeps rents affordable for the demand side. This mutually beneficial approach for tenant (security) and landlord (good return on investment), would ensure that the Government could get its act together on the rental housing market.

It is not that difficult to fix. – Yours, etc, FRANK KAVANAGH Greystones, Co Wicklow.

Sir – The reason our rental sector is so desperately neglected (Kitty Holland “Nine out of 10 Dublin rented dwellings failstandards test”, November 26th) is because the Government is too lax on private investors in the property market.

Anyone can become a landlord without any licensing or basic knowledge of housing legislation.  With the standards set so low, why should we expect any better of landlords?

There should be a proper licensing process where those who want to rent out a property have to be up to date on housing legislation and their duty of care to tenants.

They should be tested on their knowledge and, only if successful, granted a license to rent out property.

We don’t allow people to drive cars without first taking lessons and passing a test, so why should we allow anyone with a bit of extra cash to become a landlord?

We are seeing over and over again greedy investors providing sub-standard housing at exorbitant prices.

Just because someone has money to invest, doesn’t mean they will make a good landlord. We need to stop talking about rentals as investments, and acknowledge that the business of providing a home is a big deal. – Yours, etc, BROOKE NEARY Bray, Co Wicklow.

Sir,- In this wet and watery month of November, my civic spirits were lifted by my recent passport application.

First I was given an online tracker number which provided helpful and updated information about my application. Then my passport arrived a day earlier than the 15-day turnabout promised.

The document itself can only be described as a thing of beauty, with many great images of this Republic.

Well done to the Passport Office!

If this agency – which was in considerable chaos and the subject of much controversy some years ago – can get its act together, perhaps there is hope for change in other other public services. – Yours, etc, FIONA CUMMINS Bray, Co Wicklow.

Sir, – The Feeder Schools 2014 supplement (November 27th) provided limited but welcome data on the present situation of education inequality.

In providing progression rates per school to third-level education as a percentage of all students sitting the Leaving Cert, the figures shed light on the vast disparities by postcode which exist in Ireland.

However, the figures are limited as they do not provide a full picture, particularly in relation to Deis (designated deprived) schools. The number of students within each school not sitting the Leaving Cert, or who drop out of the school prior to this, are not represented within the figures. Thus, the figures, already damning in terms of inequality, are actually downplaying the situation.

Serious questions must be asked as to the dearth of available data by the Government in this area. A number of months ago, my office contacted the Department of Education, the Higher Education Authority as well as the specialist body for widening access HEAR (Higher Education Access Route).

We asked for available data in relation to progression to third level from all Deis schools in the country, to which we were told that such data was not collected or indeed available by the State.

In light of the massive inequalities that exist, and have existed for a very long time, the question must be asked as to how the Government can justify not collecting this data?

In order to address these inequalities, it is absolutely imperative that such analysis is available.

Moreover, the very glaring inequity associated with socio-economic status must be addressed head on by this Government, not in the future, but right here, right now. How much longer can this two-tiered system of opportunity continue? – Yours etc, MAIREAD HEALY, Chief Executive, Future Voices Ireland, Temple Bar, Dublin 2. Sir, – Following the publication of the Feeder Schools 2014 supplement (November 27th) I wish to acknowledge and congratulate the 2,965 students who sat the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) programme this year. Sadly, this group of students do not merit consideration or comment in your supplement. However many LCA students have secured places on their chosen course in one of our many “top” PLC colleges.

A decade ago a cohort of students would not have continued their second-level studies because of the high-stakes exam that is the Leaving Cert.

The LCA programme is an exciting alternative to the established Leaving Cert for those students who respond best to a hands-on, practical approach to learning. The skills they develop in LCA, such as communication, decision-making and teamwork, are essential in the modern workplace. It is designed to enable students develop these skills and qualities through the various experiences in the classroom and beyond. It enables students to have more positive learning experiences through the ongoing assessments and the regular feedback they receive at the end of each session of the programme.

At Castleknock Community College our LCA students are part of the Leaving Certificate group: they share the same teachers, participate in the same sports and are considered for the same awards.

Congratulations to all LCA teachers who honour their profession on a daily basis by ensuring that the needs of all students are provided for in their schools. – Yours, etc, JOHN CRONIN Principal, Castleknock Community College, Dublin 15.

Sir, – Peter McGuire says of the feeder school tables (Feeder Schools 2014, November 27th), “These tables are flawed and imperfect. We know that.” Well said, Peter, maybe now we can stop publishing them and making such a song and dance about what are essentially indicators of privilege and advantage as opposed to any real reflection on quality of experience and schools.

Wealth, privilege and opportunity are the real keys to success at school and progression to third level, as alluded to in Brian Mooney’s commentary in the same supplement.

The one way of raising standards for everybody is through narrowing the gap between rich and poor, something our current domestic policies seem hell-bent upon avoiding.

What the feeder school supplement does teach us is that the rich get richer through increased opportunity to access third-level education and therefore any discussion of school performance is in fact a discussion of social inequality. – Yours, etc, DR KEVIN CAHILL School of Education, University College Cork

A chara, – While the person who cut down the cross on Carrauntoohil may have had an anti-religious motive, I, not so much as a Catholic priest, but more as a climber of hills for most of my life, would be of the opinion that certain structures defile the natural beauty of hilltops and mountaintops.

When I drove through England in the early 1970s, I noticed how many beautiful hilltops were spoiled by masts, a feature which we didn’t have in Ireland. Not so any more.

Soon after that visit, the beautiful Corn Hill with its perfectly centred ancient meascán, Carn Chlann Aodha, which had for centuries dominated the scenery in my native Co Longford, was ruined by the erection, slightly off centre, of a television mast.

The symmetry of the hill, and the view from the top, has been further spoiled by the planting of trees on the hilltop.

While our ancestors had a sense of regard for the shape of our hills in their placing of cairns on various hilltops, none more striking than those on the Paps of Dana, An Dá Chích, in Co Kerry, crosses, no less than masts, seldom fit with the natural contours of hills and mountains, and therefore should be allowed only sparingly, and with due account of the hill’s natural shape.

Tree planting, too, should be similarly controlled. What can be done to restore the beauty of so many spoiled hills now is quite another problem. – Is mise, etc, AN tATHAIR SEÁN Ó COINN, Maothail, Co Liatroma.

Sir, Bishop Kevin Doran (“Bishop says opposition to same-sex marriage not about homosexuality”, November 28th) asserts there is a “unique relationship between marriage and procreation” and that “this is the principal reason for the State to have any reason in regulating marriage”.

It may help to clarify the Bishop’s thoughts if he, and others, were to consider that marriage is a contract between two people for the joint ownership of property and its intergenerational transfer.

All the terms within this statement are capable of definition and regulation within the law as society changes its emphases over time. If he does not believe me, look what happens when a marriage breaks up. – Yours, etc, ROBERT TOWERS Monkstown, Co Dublin. Sir, Bishop Kevin Doran’s view that marriage is primarily about procreation (“Bishop says opposition to same-sex marriage not about homosexuality,” November 28th) is obviously incorrect, the former being in no way a requirement for the latter.

A majority of births in Ireland already occur outside of marriage and historically the notions of adoption or of acquiring stepchildren by marriage are commonplace.

Suggesting that the entire purpose of marriage is procreation is an insult to those married couples who for one reason or another cannot have children of their own.

Furthermore, tying marriage to an exclusively heterosexual biological event, while at the same time denying a bias against homosexuality, is a threadbare hypocrisy.

Marriage is a legal contract between two parties. It applies certain mutual rights and privileges, and complementary duties and obligations, in respect of each other and of property and minors in their guardianship.

The sexual, emotional or financial character of the interpersonal relationship between those parties is not material to its legal status.

While the open adoption of children by homosexual couples or procreation via surrogacy may be new phenomena, it is certainly the case that these children deserve the same protections and privileges in respect of their parents as do the children of heterosexual unions.

The bishop might find less opposition if they were to argue that a principal difference between a marriage and a “sexual friendship” is the legal framework to support parenthood, a possibility which in the modern world is equally open to heterosexual, homosexual and infertile couples.

There are obviously other spousal privileges and responsibilities conferred by marriage that have nothing to do with children but are still valuable and meaningful to society, such as next of kin status, inheritance rights and so on that the bishop seems content to ignore. – Yours, etc, JOHN THOMPSON Phibsboro, Dublin 7.

Irish Independent:

Pope Francis is right to call for opening dialogues with adversaries. However, terrorists bent on conquering the cradle of Christianity and planting the black flag of their self-declared caliphate, represent only themselves. They do not represent the more than one billion Muslims scattered across the globe. Muslims and Christians have coexisted harmoniously throughout centuries, from the times of Prophet Mohammed and the dawn of human civilisation.

It is true that the Muslim world is facing formidable challenges at the present juncture and that a few terrorist organisations and individuals are perpetrating gruesome and chilling acts in its name, assailing its true message of fraternity and tolerance and sowing discord and enmity among believers and non-believers alike. But extremism has no religion, creed or colour. Extremism, prejudice and bigotry are as old as history.

Let us not forget the Holocaust, the most atrocious massacre witnessed in contemporary history when six million Jews perished in Christian Europe; and the unmitigated anguish endured by defenceless Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories, and the countless Muslims tortured, humiliated and murdered in Burma, Central African Republic and elsewhere.

Interfaith, intercultural and interreligious dialogue can positively contribute to the advancement of good governance, compassion, tenderness and the appreciation of the sanctity of human life and dignity. The Koran says “if any one slew a person, it would be as if he slew the whole people. And if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.” (The Koran, Al Maida: 32).

Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob

London NW2

Irish nationalism a mutation

In commemorating 1916 we must substitute critical reasoning for romance and fantasy. Nations are only ‘imagined communities’ and nationalism of ‘hate the other’ is negative. Padraig Pearse said: “Irish hate of English is a holy passion”. Universal love promotes forgiveness and fellowship and necessary in a global village. Knowledge is power and a creative scientific community sufficiently big to push out the frontiers of knowledge would be over a hundred million people.

Financial and intellectual capital is scarce and only big units have the critical mass to be effective. States that push out the frontiers of knowledge are a blessing and those that push out the frontiers of their territories are a curse. The US and UK innovated most of the world’s significant technology. The world is interdependent and shared sovereignty and integration is good. The founding fathers of the EU described nationalism as a sewer down which flowed the blood and wealth of Europe in two major wars.

The EU was set up to prevent a recurrence and has the size to keep pace in a high-tech race. An open society based on an ideology of liberty – not race or creed – is best to maintain human rights. Freedom is about human rights, the freedom to be different, to form your own opinions, to change and grow. Irish nationalism was a mutation of race and religion that enforced compulsory conformity. History cannot be changed. Bear the pain, lean from it and it will not be lived again.

Kate Casey

Limerick city

A case of history repeating

Economists – blind to the lessons learned from the ‘Celtic Tiger collapse’ six years ago – seem happy with the speed of the property price rises. They continue to asses house values using the peak figures achieved in the boom – even though it was nationally acknowledged these prices were outlandish and not value for money.

In Dublin, houses were up 3pc in October and are now 24pc higher than a year ago. Likewise, house prices outside the capital are up 8.3pc in same period. Note prices are still down 35pc nationally since the peak in 2007. To me, the correct market values are the prices now prevailing.

I have been observing advertised house prices in a number of weekend national newspaper property supplements, particularly in the Dublin area, where prices are suddenly becoming very similar to those in 2007. Property columnists, not economists, are even warning on the danger of another bubble.

The same wise guys who said: “Why didn’t somebody call ‘halt’ on the Celtic Tiger bubble?” are now fanning a new bubble. Finance Minister Michael Noonan clearly wants the property party to continue indefinitely.

Challenging him is his ‘obedient’ servant Patrick Honohan, head of the Central Bank. He seems desperate to take sensible action to, at least, appease the Dublin house market and avert any possibility of another national economic inferno.

I believe a lot more social housing is the solution, and let those who can afford it follow the markets. Sanity must prevail.

James Gleeson

Thurles, Co Tipperary

Parents clued in about schools

I am baffled by John Walshe’s article (November 27) in which he asserts that parents “have a right to know more about how well our kids are being educated”. (I deplore the use of the word “kids” in relation to children, as kids are young goats) As an educationalist for the past 36 years I can assure your readers that parents are very tuned into all aspects of the school life of their children.

Schools are very engaged with critical self-evaluation,and this is examined in all ‘whole school evaluations’, and standardised tests results are returned to the Department of Education on a yearly basis. Parents’ associations are an integral part of all school activities and their opinions are listened to and acted upon.

It seems to me that the call for “league tables” comes from the media and not from parents – because they already have all the information they need.

M McDonnell

Address with editor

Health and funding

Illness, both physical and mental, is a very fickle thing. It doesn’t talk or communicate. It doesn’t listen or negotiate. Time is of no interest to it and it can strike like a thief in the night. Words such as over budget, National Service Plan, deficit, going forward, HSE and bed blockers are of no consequence to it. As somebody who has suffered several serious illnesses and survived – thanks mainly to our superb medical people and all hospital staff, I can vouch for this .

Therefore there is no such thing as over budget when it comes to health and illness – only underfunding.

Dr Aidan Hampson

Artane, Dublin 5

Dail could learn from sports

I have recently being thinking of Ireland’s position in the world of sport.

Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry at the top of the leader board in a prestigious golf tournament; Rory number one in the world; Katie Taylor number one in world women’s boxing for the fifth time; our men’s amateur boxers one of the very top teams in the world; the Irish rugby team number three in the world.

I couldn’t help thinking, how did such a great little country get such nondescript – with a few notable exceptions – politicians through the years?

Brendan Delaney

Donabate, Co Dublin

Save us from Sinn Fein antics

That the Dail and the country should now be doomed to a near-weekly display of the Shinners’ stunt politics is a damning indictment of our parliament’s disciplinary procedures, and a disappointing one at that.

Killian Foley-Walsh

Kilkenny city

Irish Independent

Peter Rice

November 28, 2014

28 November 2014 Peter Rice

I still have arthritis in my left toe I am stricken with gout. But I manage to get to the Post Office and Co OP do the housework. Peter Rice turns up

Mary’s back much better today, breakfast weight down rabbit for tea and her tummy pain is still there.


Baroness James of Holland Park – obituary

‘Queen of Crime’ who as P D James delighted millions with her poet-sleuth Adam Dalgliesh and wrote a sequel to Pride and Prejudice

PD James in 2009

PD James in 2009 Photo: Andrew Crowley

2:31PM GMT 27 Nov 2014


Baroness James of Holland Park, better known as P D James, who has died aged 94, was among the most celebrated in a long and distinguished line of women crime writers stretching back to Dorothy L Sayers and Agatha Christie, with neither of whom she cared to be compared.

During more than 50 years as an author, her books showed an elegance of characterisation and an aptitude for capturing atmosphere that blurred distinctions between classic detective stories and the conventional novel. She admitted that she had started writing crime fiction because she thought it would be easier to have a story published in that genre before going on to produce “proper” novels.

She stayed with what she called “traditional English detective fiction” because she found she could still explore human behaviour within the formal structure of the crime genre. Even her final novel, Death Comes to Pemberley (2011), a sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, is a mystery story that opens with a brutal murder.

A vigorous, beaming woman who described herself as “grandmotherly”, P D James had a frank and sociable exterior that belied a fascination with pain and death, often graphically described in her books. “Murder isn’t pleasant,” she explained. “It’s an ugly thing and a cruel thing. Let those who want pleasant murders read Agatha Christie.” She also admitted that if she were reading one of her own books, she would feel that she was reading “a woman with such a strong love of order and tradition that she is obviously covering in her own personality some basic turbulence and insecurity”.

Any insecurities of James’s were well disguised. A long and illustrious career in the Home Office led to a period as a magistrate, appointments to various cultural bodies, including the British Council and the BBC (as a governor), and finally to a place in the House of Lords, where she took the Conservative whip and lobbied for the arts.

Becoming a pillar of the literary establishment rather late in life — she set up as a full-time writer only after retiring from the Civil Service in 1979, shortly before turning 60 — P D James threw herself into literary life with remarkable zest. She became chairman of the Society of Authors at 64, joined the board of the Arts Council at 68, and in 1987 chaired the judging panel for the Booker Prize; on television in 1990 she chaired her own books programme, Speaking Volumes, with characteristic shrewdness and wit, becoming perhaps the first television presenter to describe herself, at 70, as “an old woman”.

In these and her other public roles she proved both fluent and forceful, and perennially good-humoured. While guest editor of the Today programme in 2009, she memorably took the BBC director-general Mark Thompson to task over the corporation’s failings. She was awarded the Nick Clarke journalism prize for the interview.

Her private life, in its middle years at least, was cruelly hard. But she retained her great capacity for friendship and was splendidly clubbable.

Phyllis Dorothy James was born on August 3 1920 in Oxford. When her father, an ill-paid tax officer, was transferred to the Inland Revenue in Cambridge, she enrolled at Cambridge High School for Girls. Although she became a star pupil — excelling at English — there was never any question of her education continuing beyond the age of 16. Hopes of a university degree ended when her father, “a man not disposed to educate girls”, told her he could not afford the fees.

Instead, at 17, she went to work in a dreary tax office at Ely; more than 50 years later she would still wince at the memory and lament the sheer waste of time. During the Second World War she was in Cambridge, engaged in the no less dreary chore of issuing ration books, and in 1941 she married Connor Bantry White, a medical student, with whom she had two daughters. Later in the war, White qualified as a doctor but was badly affected by his wartime experiences and returned in 1945 suffering from schizophrenia. He never recovered and spent the rest of his life in and out of various hospitals until his death in 1964.

In 1949 Phyllis White and her husband moved in with his parents. Faced with the responsibility of being the family breadwinner, she took a job keeping medical records. In the evenings she studied for a diploma in hospital administration. For the next 10 years she worked for the North West Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board, eventually becoming principal administrative assistant. Meanwhile, she was not only nursing her husband but also bringing up her two girls.

As she approached 40, Phyllis White began to fear that she would never fulfil her ambition of becoming a writer. “It was a now or never situation,” she recalled. “I didn’t want to end up saying to my children and grandchildren: ‘I always thought I’d be a writer.’ ”

In 1959, as P D James, she began to plot her first novel, Cover Her Face, which introduced her master detective (and poet), Adam Dalgliesh. James endowed him with the qualities she most admired in men: “courage, compassion, high intelligence and sensitivity”. She agreed that it would be unusual to find a senior detective who was also a successful poet, but argued that “we do tend to stereotype people. Why shouldn’t a policeman write poems?”

Working for two hours each morning before leaving for work, P D James completed the novel in 1961. Her agent approached Faber and Faber and suggested that they needed a new crime writer to replace Cyril Hare, who had recently died. James recalled that she fully expected to be rejected, but Faber accepted her book immediately and Cover Her Face was published in 1962. It was an instant success. “She would get reviews in the Times Literary Supplement which were like love letters,” her agent remembered.

Although Cover Her Face was set in a country house and dealt with the death of a parlourmaid, her second novel A Mind To Murder (1963) saw James on (for her) more familiar ground. This story was set in a psychiatric practice and gave James the opportunity to explore the device of the “closed community”, a setting which she favoured in her later books.

PD James examining a razor blade, 1987 (SYGMA/CORBIS)

A Mind To Murder also gave P D James the chance to draw on her experience of hospital administration, providing an accurate sense of realism. Hospitals featured again in Shroud for a Nightingale (1971), set in a nursing school where a student nurse is poisoned. An Unsuitable Job for a Woman (1972) was set in the microbiology department of a Cambridge college; The Black Tower (1975) dealt with a home for incurables, and Death of an Expert Witness (1977) with the murder of a forensic scientist.

Meanwhile, following the death of her husband, P D James had resumed evening classes and in 1968 her studies led to her passing exams for a senior post at the Home Office. She worked as a principal in the police department until 1972, when she moved to the department responsible for criminal policy, specialising in what was then known as juvenile delinquency. There she acquired detailed first-hand knowledge of forensic science, juvenile offenders and other subjects which she drew on in her subsequent career as a novelist.

Her experiences in the National Health Service and Whitehall were also instrumental in teaching her how to chair a committee with an almost feline mixture of briskness and cunning. Certainly, P D James enjoyed the contrasts in her working lives. “I am a writer who needs the demands of an outside job,” she noted.

During her time at the Home Office she took advantage of her access to so many experts to check the authenticity of methods used in her books. For Death of an Expert Witness, James checked every aspect of forensic analysis of criminal evidence. But reviewers were more impressed with her characterisation. “James’s insight into sexual fears and needs is profound,” wrote one critic. “She makes of even her murderers and victims human beings we can pity.” As for her hero Adam Dalgliesh, she always insisted that he was not the man she would have liked to marry, but the man she might like to have been. As the burden of work grew, she used to complain, only half-jokingly, that what she really needed was a good wife.

For most of her writing life P D James was saddled with the sobriquet “Queen (or First Lady) of Crime”, a crown which the media had handed to her following the death of Agatha Christie in 1976. But she was at pains to point out that she differed from Christie (“such a bad writer”) in that she cared about the victim and thought that treating the corpse as simply part of a puzzle “trivialised death”.

Following her retirement from the Home Office in 1979, P D James increased her writing output. Innocent Blood (1980), which dealt with an adopted child who discovers her real parents were child-murderers, was followed by The Skull Beneath the Skin (1982) and A Taste for Death (1986), dealing with the murder of a politician in a south London church.

As her literary output increased, so did other calls on her time. In 1985 she was asked to lecture on detective fiction at Boston University and in the same year produced her first play, Private Treason. Two years later P D James was appearing on the literary television programme Book Choice. Also in 1987, when she helped to judge the Booker Prize, she recalled being interviewed for the newspapers and their being very eager to have her photograph taken “clutching a dagger or carving knife”.

Having been appointed OBE in 1983, she became a magistrate while writing Devices And Desires (1989), and in 1991 was created a life peer.

The death of her husband when she was only 44 caused her great and abiding distress. Death out of sequence — and particularly the death of a child — remained for her “the most awful thing that can happen to a human being”. She was sustained not only by a remarkable inner strength, but also by her two daughters (and, later, grandchildren) to whom she remained devoted. She was also a committed Anglican: she was horrified when no one seemed to realise that the title of her novel Devices and Desires came from the Book of Common Prayer.

P D James was never a prolific writer, unlike many of her contemporaries, notably Ruth Rendell, her friend in the House of Lords with whom she was often compared and who averaged two books a year. For the first decade of her writing life, James averaged one every two years. This was partly because she was an author who took infinite pains; there was nothing slapdash about her prose, and although the earlier novels were, in the classic English tradition, comparatively short books, her later ones such as Devices and Desires and The Murder Room (2003) were more than 400 pages long.

While never neglecting the disciplines of plot, which she relished, she liked to take time exploring character in depth and, in particular, creating a sense of place. She used to say that all her novels began with the setting. Ideas often came to her when she was out walking. She was especially good on Suffolk, which she had known since family camping holidays near Lowestoft and where, in later years, she bought a cottage at Southwold.

Her descriptions of English country churches were both loving and evocative, reflecting her interest in church architecture and her passion for the language of the Authorised Version of the Bible. “Clerics have debased the Authorised Version,” she complained, “presumably on the basis that they are better writers than Cranmer or that God is unable to appreciate the more subtle rhythms of 17th-century prose.”

In her later years her fellow authors awarded her the coveted Crime Writers’ Association Diamond Dagger for a lifetime’s achievement. Her books were filmed and televised and she travelled the world lecturing, signing and taking on visiting fellowships in Boston, California and Toronto. She published A Time to Be in Earnest, her “Fragment of Autobiography”, in 1999, and the final Dalgliesh novel, The Private Patient, about the murder of a journalist at a plastic surgery clinic, in 2008.

More than almost any other crime writer, P D James transcended the genre to produce novels which stood on their own as works of literature. She herself observed that “a first-class mystery should also be a first-class novel”.

Having made a late start in the literary stakes, by the end she was as grande a dame as any, although she never gave herself airs and was ultimately as happy with her cats and her grandchildren as she was at the House of Lords with the great and good.

Lady James is survived by her two daughters.

Baroness James of Holland Park, born August 3 1920, died November 27 2014


US-FERGUSON-THANKSGIVING EVE Broken glass on ground where ‘I love Ferguson’ is written. Ferguson, Missouri. Photograph: Yin Bogu/Xinhua Press/Corbis

Gary Younge sets out in chilling detail (The nation of laws, but no justice, 26 November) how the structural disadvantage of African Americans is rendered concrete in specific acts including being shot dead in the street. Regrettably he offers no indication as to how this situation might begin to be remedied. In 2003 Brown University of Providence, Rhode Island, set up a steering committee on slavery and justice, its purpose being to locate the university’s historic role in relation to slavery and to make recommendations accordingly. The published report – as well as offering a sophisticated analysis of the repercussions of slavery in America – made a series of recommendations (eg on hiring protocols and the acceptance of monetary legacies) which the university set in train. The Brown University project is the obvious model for a Senate, Congressional or joint committee of inquiry on the legacy of slavery. There are, for example, 21 Senate committees currently sitting, including ones on ageing, ethics and Indian (Native American) affairs, but the screaming absence at the heart of the US governmental committee system remains slavery. It is not altogether clear how particular committees come into being, but if the president has any influence on the process, Barack Obama has the chance to bolster his somewhat threadbare legacy. Would it not be wonderful if his last act as president was to force the instruments of the US state to confront the great unspeakable in American culture?
Colin McArthur

• The human rights protests in the US draw attention to a great deal that’s wrong with our own media. US human rights abuses have gone largely unreported by journalists. It’s not just the killing with impunity of black Americans that is the problem. The US has only 5% of the global population but its often privatised prison system incarcerates 25% of the world’s prisoners. A disproportionate number of these are black – as are the death row inhabitants. African Americans make up around 12.5% of the US population. Yet, according to academic Michele Alexander, in some US cities the proportion of African American males with some form of criminal record approaches 80%. Also some of the worst abuses of the post-slavery era are still largely intact. Brutal post-civil war “disenfranchisment” which forced African Americans out of the public sphere and persisted into the 1960s in the practice of murdering voter registration activists now continues in the form of semi-legal “voter suppression”. Lynching culture has metamorphosed into “stand your ground, shoot-first laws”, now legal in 30 US states. These norms are being imposed across the globe and imported into our own society.
Dr Gavin Lewis

• Surely, no police officer anywhere in the world needs to shoot to kill when attempting to disarm a potentially dangerous person? Putting a bullet in an arm or a leg is quite sufficient to disable a possible criminal. Furthermore, a white police officer putting a killing bullet into a black suspect in a country with a long history of racism must inevitably lead to riots.
Rachel Gibbons
Hove, East Sussex

A young person’s arms covered in scars as a result of self harm. ‘Applied behaviour analysis would have instituted an assessment that explains why the behaviour is occurring and put in place a plan of action for her self-harm.’ Photograph: Linda Nylind

It is deplorable that a young woman with autism died after gaining 10 stone in weight during the seven years she was detained – mainly alone in a padded room – at a private assessment and treatment centre (Patient with autism put on 10 stone during years alone in padded room, coroner rules, 25 November).

The misconception that some people with autism behave in a way that is so challenging they cannot be supported to change their behaviour resulted in a tragic outcome for Stephanie Bincliffe and her family. We believe every person with autism deserves to be supported in a way that helps them to thrive and achieve. Mencap and the Challenging Behaviour Foundation have called for the Department of Health to order an independent inquiry into the death of inpatients with learning disabilities. In the case of Stephanie Bincliffe, we echo the need for an independent inquiry to investigate her death and to address her family’s concerns about her treatment.
Jolanta Lasota
Chief executive, Ambitious about Autism

• We read with great sadness about Stephanie Bincliffe. There is a science much underused in the UK – yet in mainstream use elsewhere in the world – that might perhaps have helped. Applied behaviour analysis would have instituted a functional analysis (ie an assessment that explains why the behaviour is occurring) and put in place a plan of action for her self-harm. Nice guidelines recommend such functional analyses for behaviour that challenges: behaviour analysts are the professionals trained to carry them out. ABA is much used in the early years for children with autism, but can have application at any age. There are 160 masters-level board certified behaviour analysts in the UK – perhaps this tragic case will prompt such establishments to seek out their expertise in the future.
Dr Neil Martin, Dr Jenn Austin, Dr Mecca Chiesa, Kate Grant, Suzy Yardley, Mandy Williams, Jane McCready, Shelley Swain, Richard May
Board of the UK Society for Behaviour Analysis

• I am a “hospital manager” at a low-secure inpatient unit specialising in treatment of people with learning disabilities and challenging behaviour (Society, 26 November) – despite the title an independent panel with the power to discharge a patient against the advice of the responsible psychiatrist). I have just come back from hearing a case concerning someone with very low IQ who prior to admission had been uncontrollably aggressive and dangerous to family and others, and had not responded to treatment. Now under intensive care of staff at the unit he is experiencing a much better quality of life.

However, what does frustrate members of our panel is the fact that when the therapy is successful, and patients have learned to control their aggression and/or self-harming behaviour, so few commissioning authorities have community sheltered facilities to which they can progress. This is a real scandal. We often cannot release a person from section because we cannot be certain that he or she will be safe once in the community. So we must not create the idea that there is no need for intensive care in secure settings. But we owe it to the people concerned, and to their families, to campaign for many more places where they can come off section, but with proper care in place to enable them to live safely.
Martin Vye
Canterbury, Kent

19.06 GMT

As an individual member of YHA, and a member of the U3A’s only affiliated youth hostelling group, I was delighted to see the YHA was being celebrated (The YHA gets a bunk up, Travel, 22 November). But it became a wry kind of delight when I realised the featured hostel was Stow-on-the-Wold. The U3A group liked it so much, we’ve stayed there twice, and are planning a third visit soon. But alas, if any readers wish to follow us to this “majestic double-fronted townhouse”, they’d better not leave it too long, as the YHA has decided that Stow is a dispensable part of its portfolio, and the hostel has been sold.

The Georgian mansion that is Stratford hostel, another group favourite, is still in the YHA, but the Regency mansion on the shores of the lake that was Derwentwater hostel has also been sold, as has nearby Elterwater. Yes, this is a “realm of modestly priced self-catering accommodation known only to the few”, but what Rachel Dixon perhaps did not realise is that it is a fast-shrinking realm. So if your readers felt tempted to sample a medieval banquet at St Briavels, yet another group favourite, or to watch a magnificent sunset from Poppit Sands, I advise them to go sooner rather than later, while these splendidly located hostels remain in the YHA.
Sarah Matthews

The Somme Soldiers of the English infantry in France, running out of their trenches at the signal to assault at the Somme. Photograph: Fototeca Gilardi/Getty Images

Paul Mason, discussing whether graphic portrayal of its gruesome reality is an effective tactic in opposing war (The closer I get to conflict, the more I think showing gruesome images can never deter war, G2, 24 November), refers to Ernst Friedrich’s famous anti-war museum in Berlin, which was closed by the Nazis in 1933. Friedrich’s grandson, Tommy Spree, reopened the museum in 1982; he and the museum are still there today, at Brüsseler Str 21 (in Berlin’s Wedding district). For those readers who are interested in the gruesome side, Friedrich’s shocking 1924 book War Against War! – which Paul Mason also describes – is available in print again in English. It was republished by Spokesman Books earlier this year.
Albert Beale
Editor, Housmans World Peace Database

Tony Blair Tony Blair attends the second annual Save the Children Illumination Gala at the Plaza Hotel in New York. Photograph: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

The news that the Guardian is to adopt US spellings for some American proper nouns is to be commended (Mind your language, 21 November, Generally speaking, US spellings represent the spoken sound to a slightly greater degree than the British. However, it should be remembered that this development originated largely from the initiatives of Noah Webster, whose more ambitious plans for English spelling modernisation were halted abruptly by the US Congress. In the interests of ease of learning and greater literacy, it is surely time to revisit that initiative.
Stephen Linstead
Chair, English Spelling Society

• Even before the supreme court decides, are we to hear the prince’s 27 letters have somehow “gone missing” from the ministerial files (Report, 26 November)?
Les Wheeler

• Notwithstanding the merits of Tony Blair’s award (Report, 26 November), how can Save the Children justify spending not an insignificant amount, out of its scarce resources, on such a superfluous event like the glittering “Illumination Gala” at New York’s Plaza Hotel no less. When I’ve donated money to this charity it was in the belief that the money would be spent on caring for children in places like Gaza, Iraq, Syria and west Africa. I shall never give it another penny in the future.
Asaf Mir

• Just checked back out of interest the books I have read over the past few months (Woolf is for women – and Mailer’s for men? How readers favour authors of own gender, 26 November). John Keegan, Andrew Martin, Benjamin Black, Peter Ackroyd, David Kynaston, Robert B Parker, CJ Sansom, Richard Flanagan. But no, I am not male. I did read Middlemarch earlier in the year…
Rosemary Duff

• Facebook is criticised for failing to stop the plot to kill Lee Rigby. I await the inevitable bad press that MI5 and MI6 will face for their lamentable failure to provide us with a place to share our photos with friends.
Angela Ford
Cullompton, Devon

A handout picture from Britain's Ministr Britain’s international development secretary Justine Greening talking to medics at RAF Brize Norton prior to them flying to Freetown, Sierra Leone, to help tackle the Ebola crisis. Photograph: Cpl Richard Cave/AFP/Getty Images

We are a network of UK-based organisations and individuals working to improve health in Sierra Leone. The Ebola outbreak is the greatest humanitarian threat the country has faced since its devastating civil war and we welcome the highly committed response to the crisis from both the secretary of state for international development, Justine Greening, and from the UK government as a whole.

To ensure as much benefit is gained from these commitments as possible, we the undersigned members and friends of the UK-Sierra Leone Health Partners Network would like to bring to the UK government’s attention our following concerns, and call upon the secretary of state for international development to raise them further with relevant cabinet ministers:

First, the withdrawal of Gambia Bird flight permits. The decision by the UK government to halt direct flights between London and Freetown was ill advised and contradicts travel advice from the WHO and the Foreign Office. Forcing people from the UK to travel to west Africa via Europe significantly impedes efforts to deliver humanitarian aid and monitor returning travellers. This knee-jerk response is putting UK nationals on the ground at risk by leaving them under-equipped and understaffed, putting our own population at greater risk by undermining efforts to tackle Ebola at its source, and having a devastating impact on the Sierra Leonean economy. We call upon the UK government to reinstate direct flights between the UK and Sierra Leone.

Second, slow scale-up of bed numbers and coverage. A recent paper in The Lancet claimed we face a “rapidly closing window of opportunity for controlling the outbreak and averting a catastrophic toll of Ebola cases and deaths”. The 1,700 beds pledged by the US to Liberia are less than half the 4,800 required by mid-November to rapidly control the disease, and requirements rise exponentially as each week passes. The large treatment centres being built in permanent structures by the UK in Sierra Leone are essential, but alone are insufficient as they are time-consuming to erect and offer limited coverage. The deployment of low-tech treatment centres in local areas is the only way to achieve the rapid scale-up of capacity required. We understand the UK is beginning to adopt this approach which is encouraging, but much more needs to be done to avoid further catastrophic loss of life. We call upon the UK government to increase the use of low-tech facilities in local areas.

Third, expensive transportation costs. Many of our network organisations, including diaspora groups and charities, have significant resources at their disposal that they struggle to deliver because of extortionate logistical costs. The UN office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs can provide a cost-effective and efficient humanitarian relief supply chain via companies such as DHL when called upon to act by member states. This has yet to be done and is a significant barrier to relief efforts. We call upon the UK government to lobby the UN to provide logistical support for the delivery of humanitarian aid.

Fourth, fragile health systems. This unprecedented outbreak is the result of a “perfect storm” of several underlying conditions, the most critical of which is the weakness of local health systems. Sierra Leone has about 120 doctors for 6 million people. The UK has supported ambitious government health reforms in the past and impressive progress has been made, but Ebola has pushed the health system to breaking point. Unless a comprehensive response to this crisis is adopted, health services will collapse entirely, resulting in a public health disaster that will eclipse the Ebola outbreak itself and provide the perfect incubator for further outbreaks. As the leader of the international response in Sierra Leone, the UK must ensure the unprecedented international attention and resources support long-term efforts to strengthen all aspects of the health system, in collaboration with the Sierra Leonean Ministry of Health and Sanitation. We call upon the UK government to support long-term, sustainable efforts to strengthen Sierra Leone’s health system to avert an impending public health disaster.
Sir James Mellon
Former high commissioner of the UK to Ghana, Vice-president, St Andrew’s Clinic for Children (STACC)
Professor John Rees
Emeritus professor of medical education, King’s College London
Professor David Lloyd
Chair, The Waterloo Partnership, Emeritus professor, University of Liverpool, Past-president, British Association of Paediatric Surgeons
Professor Peter Holmes
Emeritus professor, University of Glasgow, Chair, St Andrew’s Clinic for Children (STACC)
Professor David Crompton
Emeritus professor, University of Glasgow
Ade Daramy
Chair, UK Sierra Leone Ebola Taskforce
David M Holmes
Retired chair, Kambia-Gloucestershire Hospitals NHSFT Link
Dr Danny McLernon-Billows
Coordinator, UKSLHP
Edward Blandford
Coordinator, UKSLHP
Dr Edward Cole
Chair, Masanga Hospital International Board, CEO, Sierra Leone Adventists Abroad
Elizabeth Conteh
Chair, The Organisation of Sierra Leonean Health Professionals Abroad
Geoff Eaton
Trustee, Masanga UK
Jacqui Boulton
Co-founder and trustee, UK Friends of The Shepherds Hospice, Sierra Leone
Dr Mary Hodges
Vice-president, St Andrews Clinic for Children-Sierra Leone
Dr Matthew Clark
Co-founder, Welbodi Partnership
Ralph Swann
Coordinator, UKSLHP
Richard Kerr-Wilson
Trustee, Kambia Appeal
Robin Gray
Hon sec, Hastings Sierra Leone Friendship Link
Ruth Cecil
Chair, UK Friends of the Shepherd’s Hospice, Sierra Leone
Shona Lockyer
Chair of trustees, The Kambia Appeal
Mark Whitby
President of board of trustees, The Construction and Development Partnership, SL
Valerie Tucker
Country manager, IPAS Sierra Leone
Amar Nathwani
UKSLHP member
Amelia Cook
Medical student, King’s College London
Anne Barry
Surgical practitioner, Hinchingbrooke NHS Trust
Caroline Baker
Options Consultancy Services Ltd
Christine Boulton-Lane
Hastings Sierra Leone Friendship Link
Emily Bell
Programme manager, Sound Seekers, UCL Ear Institute
Darsha Patel
UKSLHP member
Dr Frederick Nye
UKSLHP member
Gemma Cook
Physiotherapy coordinator, King’s Sierra Leone Partnership
Jagruti Patel
Trustee, Better Lives Foundation
Jamie Patel
IT consultant
Jenifa Jeyakumar
UKSLHP member
Kantilal Mistry
UKSLHP member
Katrina Hann
Research consultant, Sierra Leone
Komal Patel
Senior clinical pharmacist, NHS
Krushna Patel
Pharmacy assistant
Mathew Bartley
Director, BartleyHealth Ltd
Max Manning-Lowe
Administrator, King’s Sierra Leone Partnership
Nainesh Patel
Lead pharmacist, Better Lives Foundation
Dr Natalie Gulliver
King’s Sierra Leone Partnership
Dr Natalie Nairi Quinn
Career development fellow in economics, University of Oxford
Dr Peter Baker
Public health speciality registrar, Volunteer epidemiologist for King’s Sierra Leone Partnership
Ronald G Smith
Retired fellow, American College of Dentists, International Association of Oral Maxillofacial Surgery
Sara Nam
Technical specialist reproductive and sexual health, Options Consultancy Ltd
Dr Shona Johnston
Paediatric registrar and VSO volunteer
Sneha Baljekar
Nursing student, King’s College London
Dr Tom Pearson
General practitioner, NHS
Tushar Trivedi
Pharmacist, Better Lives Foundation
Uriben Patel
UKSLHP member
Vanessa Adams
South Wales-Sierra Leone Cancer Care
Yoges Yogendran
UKSLHP member


So this was what we’ve been waiting for? Sadiq Khan’s great plan to deal with the Green Party: “Waste your vote on the Green Party – or choose a green Labour government” (26 November). He may be charged with plagiarism, as he’s nicked the Tory strategy for dealing with Ukip. They say: “Vote Ukip, get Ed”. He says: “Vote Green, get Cameron”. Wow, what searing political insight.

Mr Khan mentions “reducing inequality” and states his and Ed Miliband’s opposition to the Iraq War, even though they both served in government under the last Labour administration that oversaw an increase in the gap between rich and poor, and went to war in Iraq.

For many disaffected former Labour members, the war in Iraq and the increase in inequality under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were tipping points. Khan and Miliband need to explain why, if the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and a widening gap between rich and poor weren’t tipping points for them, tucked up with their well-paid jobs in safe Labour seats, what on earth would be?

Ben Saunders

Mitcham, Greater London

 “Vote Labour for a green radical government”? Methinks thou jest, Mr Khan. The Labour Party has not been radical since the 1980s when it lost its nerve and its purpose in the face of Thatcherism. Today’s Labour Party is ungrounded in principle and seems to have only one desire – to get into power by aping the Tory party.

I have a suggestion for all Labour Party members still holding on to the belief that somehow their party will one day become a socialist/social democratic party again: look at the Green Party manifesto as I did when I had my Russell Brand moment a year ago and was considering never voting again. Therein you will find the policies and principles that you believe in and thought the Labour Party believed in but no longer does. Join us and create a mass movement that opposes the vested interests of the rich and powerful and the subservient politicians in the three main parties who feed their greed.

Michael Jenkins

Bromley, Kent

It’s a bit rich Labour MP Sadiq Khan saying that, “Like it or not, under the first-past-the-post system, every vote for the Green Party only makes it one vote easier for the Conservatives to win the election.” In the run-up to the 2010 election Labour’s leadership supported the introduction of the Alternative Vote system; but come the 2011 voting-reform referendum, Labour MPs were conspicuous by their absence when it came to speaking up for the reform.

Since then the political system has had to accommodate even more “minor” parties, but the voting system is still stuck in the 1950s, when over 90 per cent of people voted for just two parties.

Labour is part of the problem and is certainly not the solution.

Alan Bailey

Sandy, Bedfordshire

Anyone who imagines that Labour is a “truly radical party again”, as Sadiq Khan claims, clearly missed Mr Miliband’s own essay in The Independent in April of this year. In the lead-up to the Euro elections, and with time and space to set out his own thoughts, young Ed concluded that “the  party I lead is building a One Nation agenda to tackle the cost-of-living-crisis: the greatest challenge of our age”.

Jack Easton

St Albans District Green Party

May I congratulate you for presenting a comprehensive and accurate view of the Greens this past week. The Green surge is happening; Labour has even set up a separate unit deliberately to discredit us. The recent poll by Lord Ashcroft posed the question: “If you thought that a party could win, who would you vote for?”  and 26 per cent of those asked said Green.

Voters need to remember that if they don’t vote for what they believe in, they are never going to get it. So be brave – tactical voting is only half of a vote.

John Marjoram

Stroud, Gloucestershire

South-east targeted by ‘mansion tax’

It is increasingly clear that the proposed mansion tax is all about politics and not about policy. It has nothing to do with fairness, and instead is all about raising easy money from a minority of the population.

I have no quibble with the argument that the current Council Tax bands are outdated and unfit for purpose and would have no objection to paying a new top band. The proposed mansion tax, however, deals with the wrong problem and, what is more, deals with it in a way that is inequitable.

Our house was bought with money on which considerable amounts of tax have already been paid. Its value has increased since then, largely as a consequence of being on the outskirts of London. If we had the same income but lived in Norfolk or the Isle of Wight we could live in a far bigger property and never be in any danger of paying the mansion tax. On this basis, the tax is not a tax on property but on London and the South-east – and someone has to live and work here.

It is completely iniquitous that Russian oligarchs and others buy properties for considerably more than £2m and then don’t live in them or contribute in any way while there is a chronic housing shortage in London.

If this tax really is about fairness then how about this: you pay mansion tax if you own a property worth more than, say, six times the regional average for where you live – this would raise far more money, which could then be spent on new affordable housing.

Kathy Moyse

Cobham, Surrey

Sol Campbell, among others, has criticised Labour for proposing a mansion tax. I quite agree that this is an unfair tax that penalises aspiration. Obviously if we want to get rid of the deficit we should rely on the 5.2 million on less than £7.70 an hour, on the disabled and on those who have been made redundant to pay for it. It is only fair that they do so since they clearly have no aspirations. Anyway they don’t seem to be complaining as much as the high-profile rich, so that’s all right then.

Dr Ian Robertson

Milton Keynes, Bedfordshire


Why I can’t support Independent campaign

I’m afraid I cannot support the idea of this year’s Independent fundraising campaign. Why? Because when people fight for this country, it is the Government’s responsibility to thank them by ensuring that they are well cared for when they return to civvy street. It is patently doing nothing of the sort, except for a very few men and women who might be getting good prosthetic limbs and rehabilitation.

By accepting that their care is a matter of charity and not governmental duty, you put their future (and that of those who follow them) more, not less, at risk.

The stories of those you have featured clearly illustrate how they have been abandoned by the people who called on their service. I find that despicable and fear your efforts will be horribly counterproductive.

Merry Cross



The real EU problem is not immigration

Even if the UK was able to close its borders to European migrants, the EU would still be expensive, badly managed, wasteful, interfering and undemocratic.

When we gave our support for continuing membership of the Common Market in 1975, we were not aware that European law would have primacy over the laws of member states.

It’s not immigration  that is the greatest concern; it’s the treacherous self-interest that turned the Common Market (a perfectly laudable project) into the European Union (a job-creation scheme for politicians and lawyers).

Without intending it, we have found ourselves being governed by judges who have created an organisation that was never in the minds of our elected representatives. As long as that continues the EU will always attract deep mistrust and wisdespread criticism.

Richard Beeley


A cartoonist at the top of his game

Wow, Dave Brown is on fire this week! First, yesterday’s laugh-out-loud cartoon in the style of Ronald Searle, a multi-layered jab at Labour’s proposed public-school bashing, lovely warm humour with serious under-layers. Then today’s savage dig at the jaw-dropping award to Tony Blair by Save the Children, which does infinitely more to dramatise this awful absurdity than any of my letter-writing bleatings could possibly hope for.

Well done, Dave!

Ian Bartlett

East Molesey, Surrey

Voluntary black-cab banishment?

If David Mellor finds taxi drivers so irksome (Letters, 27 November) perhaps he should become a taxi exile.

Stan Labovitch


Government hears Mi6 when it chooses to

Why is it that when the intelligence services ask for more anti-terrorism powers, the politicians obey; but when the same agencies warn that Britain’s involvement in foreign wars increases the terror threat at home, they are completely ignored?

Paul Donovan,

London E11


Sir, The chairman of the intelligence and security committee, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, believes that because one of the killers of Fusilier Lee Rigby wrote of his intentions on Facebook then the internet company knew he did this and could have told the authorities (News, Nov 26).

His ignorance of how language search on the web works and its approximate nature appears to be almost total; on the BBC’s Newsnight he seemed to think it consisted of looking for the word “terrorist”.

No, Facebook is not reading our messages. Banks of computers, some working for Facebook, some for GCHQ and the US National Security Agency, are indeed processing virtually everything in social media, but at present their ability to find what they are looking for is limited.

It would be far more relevant to blame GCHQ, though politicians seem not to understand what their own security agencies are doing, with or without their permission; the whistleblower Edward Snowden has made this clear to everyone.

Yorick Wilks
Professor of Artificial Intelligence, University of Sheffield

Sir, The furore around what Facebook knew about the intentions of the killers of Lee Rigby comes as no surprise to many of us who have been highlighting online hate on that website for several years. Sadly, there are many pages and groups on Facebook that are inciting hate on a daily basis. Facebook hosts pages including “Jewish ritual murder”, “Death to Islam” “The white race” and “The Holocaust is a lie”. The company says it will not tolerate hate speech, but in reality it responds only to user reports and reacts only to the volume of reports, not to actual content.

As we have seen with Lee Rigby and other cases, words can lead directly to actions. All social media have a duty of care to ensure such pages and comments are reported to the authorities and removed. With more than 1.2 billion Facebook users worldwide, the amount of traffic must be huge — but the company must scale up its response and take action.

If the tragic death of Lee Rigby leads to governments and social media taking hate speech more seriously, it will be a positive outcome.

Paul Corrick

Facebook — say no to Hatebook
Radcliffe, Manchester

Sir, The government castigates internet service providers (ISPs) for failing to alert the security services to extremist messages, but what is the computational definition of “extremist”?

The question can be seen as a practical example of entscheidungsproblem (the question of whether there exists a definite method which, at least in principle, can be applied to a given proposition to decide whether that proposition is provable). This was studied by Alan Turing and found to be insoluble. You would need a perpetual motion machine to do it!

Should we not stop wasting time and energy on an insoluble problem?

Ian Pyle
Formerly a professor of computer science, York

Sir, My company monitors what is being said about our corporate clients on the internet and we process millions of posts a day to find a few hundred significant mentions of a brand name. Our security services would be swamped with data if internet companies handed over every mention of a terror-related word posted on Facebook. Finding needles in haystacks is easy by comparison.

Richard Brown

Managing director, UKNetMonitor

Sir, It seems it is unacceptable for Scotland Yard to examine the phone records of 1,700 employees of News UK for criminal activity (News, Nov 25), but ISPs must monitor everyone’s emails for evidence of terrorism. What’s more intrusive?

John McAndrew
Welwyn, Herts

Sir, Why is it that when the intelligence services ask for more anti-terrorism powers the politicians obey, but when the same agencies warn that Britain’s involvement in foreign wars increases the terror threat at home, they are ignored?

Paul Donovan
London E11

Sir, I wonder whether the makers of Janice Turner’s new washing machine, which plays a tune when it finishes a cycle (Opinion, Nov 27), have been canny enough to program snatches of Ravel’s Jeux d’eau during periods of malfunction.
Dr Nicholas Marston
University reader in music theory and analysis, King’s College, Cambridge


Sir, Your diarist (TMS, Nov 27) says that 20 years ago New Scientist coined the term “nominative determinism” for people with apt names for their jobs. I call it Happy Families.
Wadham Sutton
Newcastle upon Tyne

Sir, Pope Francis is a breath of fresh air but is wrong about grandmothers when he says: “We encounter a general impression of weariness and ageing, of a Europe that is now a ‘grandmother’ ” (News, Nov 26). Grandmothers are hard working, useful and fulfilled. They are loved and needed. Most are generous with their time and emotional support. They do not mourn past fertility as they have passed on this gift. The EU is much more like a grumpy, single old man suffering a crisis. The Pope is surrounded by such men.
Marian Latchman
Braishfield, Hants

Sir, I write with regard to the death of cricketer Phillip Hughes (obituary, page 82). During the years I played county cricket, helmets were not worn and I was only aware of one cricketer who received a blow to the head, and that was the captain of Essex. What happens today is that the batsman, seeing the ball approaching his head, points his helmet towards the ball and lets it hit him, presumably hoping his helmet will protect him. However, in many cases I have seen the ball get through the grille. I would suggest a trial in which helmets are not worn. Batsman will then do as we did: duck out of the way. Incidentally, one West Indian cricketer wears only a cap and never seems to have been hit.
Frank McHugh
Yorks and Glos (1949-56),
Tarring, W Sussex

Sir, A year ago to the day you published my letter about the behaviour of Australian cricketers in the Ashes series. I referred to reported comments from players, such as: “We aim to hit and intimidate”, and “Give Clarke the message to go and bust some heads”. It is to be hoped that the death of Phillip Hughes informs the approach to intimidation, but my fear is that in a few months it will be forgotten.
John Vane
Woking, Surrey

Sir, By admitting the use of “bouncers” within the canon law of cricket, bowlers are encouraged to target the batsman’s head. It would be better to mark a red line across the wicket; any bowler pitching within the prohibited area should receive a call of “no ball” and a red card, debarring him from the game.
James W Neville
Southborough, Kent

Sir, Matthew Hancock, the business minister, describes as “bonkers” requirements for oven gloves to be heat-resistant and washing-up gloves to resist detergent (“EU bureaucrats in lather over kitchen safety”, Nov 24), and claims that prices “could rise by a fifth” and that the move “would place a huge weight on businesses”.

The only businesses that may incur extra costs are those that currently offer inadequate products. The revision of the EU directive on personal protective equipment is timely, and the principle is simple: if a product is meant to protect you it should do so. Our record of ensuring that people go home safely after a day at work continues to improve. Why should anyone expect lower levels of protection outside the workplace?

Alan Murray

Chief executive, British Safety Industry Federation


The real impact of independent schools; terrorists on Facebook; working families in poverty; the man who recruited Bletchley’s codebreakers; wheely annoying cases

Ofsted targets 'uninspiring' teaching at private schools

Charitable relief on business rates saves the fee-paying sector just under £150 million a year Photo: ALAMY

7:00AM GMT 27 Nov 2014


SIR – The headmaster of University College School, Hampstead, has missed the point. The short-term revenue consequences for the Exchequer are incidental. The real impact of independent schools is that, by sending their children to these over state schools, the most demanding, influential and articulate parents have only a passing interest in the education of the vast majority.

Were their children to attend the same schools as most of our children, rest assured that all schools would be funded adequately and the highest possible standards assured for all.

The long-term social and financial consequences of all our children receiving the education now reserved for just 7 per cent would be incalculable.

Ian Ducat
Coaley, Gloucestershire

SIR – Tristram Hunt, the shadow education secretary, wants to use the threat of higher tax rates to force independent schools into a closer partnership with the state sector. I invite him to visit my school to explain how we could add to our already extensive support for local schools – through shared teaching, coaching and facilities.

He clearly believes that all independent schools are awash with the children and cash of oligarchs. We are not (the headmaster of King’s in Wimbledon is welcome to send me an oligarch or two). Our fees are high because they reflect the (rising) cost of running a good school.

Of necessity, and because we believe it is the right thing to do, we offer bursaries to many families who otherwise could not afford our fees.

Our parents already pay two school bills – for state education through their taxes, and the fees at this school. I would find it hard to explain to them why we should divert more teacher time and more of our resources away from their children.

Richard Biggs
Headmaster, King’s College Taunton

SIR – Approximately 625,000 children are educated privately in Britain, which their parents pay for out of personal income which has been fully taxed. This relieves the state of the cost of educating those children – more than £1 billion each year.

Mr Hunt’s attack on private schools is spiteful class-war politics, and has nothing to do with either raising standards in state schools or correcting unfair treatment in public finances.

Neil Bailey
Audenshaw, Lancashire

SIR – The Labour Party believes that only qualified teachers should be allowed to stand in front of a class. Labour would like teachers from the independent sector to help raise standards in state schools. Many independent school teachers do not have a teaching qualification.

Has Tristram Hunt spotted the paradox here?

Chris Cory
Wootton Bridge, Isle of Wight

Hidden Shakespeare

SIR – I was not surprised to learn of the discovery of a First Folio Shakespeare in the public library in Saint-Omer.

The presence of Catholic English schools and seminaries in what is now northern France, as well as in Spain and Italy, left evidence of an exiled community anxious to keep their English roots, both religiously and culturally. There was also a considerable tradition of drama in these institutions.

It is very likely that this new discovery originally came from the library of the English Jesuit college at Saint-Omer, which was closed and its contents seized during the French Revolution.

The English College at Valladolid, Spain, retained its own copy of the Second Folio (duly censored by the Inquisition) until the Twenties when, through the offices of Maggs Brothers in London, it was acquired for the Folger Shakespeare Library in America.

Both the Royal English College at Valladolid and the Venerable English College in Rome are extant. I sincerely hope that the rector of the latter is a Telegraph reader and is now searching his library with due diligence.

Father Peter Harris
Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire

Terrorists on Facebook


SIR – People post all sorts of rubbish on Facebook and Twitter. MI5 would be drowned in information if much of this was passed on.

It is those on Facebook who are “friends” with these people who should accept responsibility. If they suspect such threats are serious, they should seek psychiatric help for their “friends”.

The police also need more recruits from ethnic minorities. This would help to remove the “us and them” culture, both within the police force and in Britain’s cities.

Dave James
Tavistock, Devon

Christian Advent

SIR – The advent calendars you review may be delicious, but none has any relevance to Christian Advent.

It is almost impossible to find an advent calendar, edible or not, that has any portrayal of the true representation of the Christmas season.

Gaile Morton

Families in poverty

SIR – The Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s latest study exposes the record number of working families living in poverty in Britain.

While employment levels are increasing, the reality behind the figures is not so positive. Millions are working in low-paid and insecure jobs, and being hit by the rising cost of food and energy.

As a charity helping people in financial hardship, we find that most of our users are struggling to cope on a low income. More than half have annual household incomes of less than £10,000. Two thirds rely on financial support from friends and family, more than three fifths have been forced to cut back on food and heating, and more than a fifth have turned to payday lenders.

It’s clear that many families have yet to see the benefits of economic recovery, and more needs to be done to address low pay and the high cost of living.

In the meantime, anyone who is struggling can use our free search tool at to identify grants and funds that may be able to provide financial, practical or emotional support.

Alison Taylor
Director, Turn2us
London W6

Machines have not yet learnt to speak human

Legless in Burma: from ‘The Mad World of Sign Language’ (Telegraph Books, David Drew)

SIR – Machine translation is vastly overrated (Learning a language is never a waste of time”).

All internet software I’ve tried to use, when translating into a foreign language, cannot differentiate between the imperfect tense (“I was looking”), the perfect tense (“I have looked”) and the preterite (“I looked”). They consistently fail to understand homonyms – for instance, perché in Italian means “why” as well as “because”.

Neither do they always understand nuance: for example, in Italian, speakers include personal pronouns with verbs only for clarity or emphasis.

Patrick West
Deal, Kent

SIR – One can get interesting results when something is translated into another language, then back into the original.

During my time working in the Middle East, I was puzzled by an item in a building bill of quantities for “wayaround”. It turned out to be skirting.

Mike Keatinge
Sherborne, Dorset

The man who recruited Bletchley’s codebreakers

SIR – While the much-acclaimed film The Imitation Game rightly acknowledges Alan Turing’s vital role in the war effort, it is sad that it does so by taking a side-swipe at Commander Alastair Denniston, portraying him as a mere hindrance to Turing’s work.

We, his descendants, prefer to remember his extraordinary achievements in the First and Second World War, as well as his unstinting devotion to Britain’s security for more than 30 years. Cdr Denniston was one of the founding fathers of Bletchley Park. On his final visit to Poland in the summer of 1939, he was briefed by Polish mathematicians on the electrical equipment they had developed to break the German cipher machine, Enigma. The Enigma machine that Denniston took back to Bletchley ultimately allowed Britain to read the German High Command’s coded instructions. Such was the secrecy surrounding his work that his retirement in 1945, and death in 1961, passed virtually unnoticed, and he remains the only former head of GC&CS (the precursor to the intelligence agency GCHQ) never to have been awarded a knighthood.

It was he who recruited Turing and many other leading mathematicians and linguists to Bletchley, where he fostered an environment that enabled these brilliant but unmanageable individuals to break the Enigma codes. The GCHQ of today owes much to the foundation he created there.

Nick Denniston
Dr Susanna Everitt
Libby Buchanan
Judith Finch
Simon Finch
Alison Finch
Hilary Greenman
Candida Connolly

Clifton-upon-Teme, Worcestershire

Accurate predictor

SIR – The ouija board may be this year’s must-have gift for Christmas. In 1942-1945 it was in constant use in hut 112 at Stalag Luft III, the Luftwaffe-run PoW camp, by my father and his fellow prisoners.

The most popular question was: “When will the war end?” The answer was always: “Next week.” Eventually, that was true.

Michael Day
Bosham, West Sussex

Far from strict


SIR – Strictly Come Dancing is not strict at all. It is entertainment thinly disguised as ballroom dancing. Even the magnificent professionals have been reduced to show ponies.

Like classical ballet, ballroom dancing has a technical structure and established rules. Unlike ballet, its function is not to tell a story but to interpret the music. That interpretation at the highest level is what moves ballroom dancing closer to art than sport. Non-believers should watch videos of Luca and Loraine Baricchi performing a waltz or Bryan Watson and Carmen Vincelj performing a cha-cha.

J T Twyford
Brentwood, Essex

Wheely annoying

SIR – As a recent visitor to Venice, I have some sympathy for the residents’ dislike of wheeled suitcases that cause noise and obstruction.

However, shouldn’t the locals’ alleged plan to impose a ban on wheeled luggage be referred to the EU Commissioners? They might have a view on what is essentially a case for free movement of goods through a member state.

Ken Clamp
Aston-on-Trent, Derbyshire

Cheating in numbers

(Paul Mckenzie / Barcroft Media)

SIR – On a recent trip to a game reserve in Africa, I was surprised to learn that the collective noun for cheetahs is a “coalition”.

How appropriate.

Alexander Pincus
Etchingwood, East Sussex

Irish Times:

Sir, – The way for some people to denote organisations or groups coming together from the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, to represent the island of Ireland, has increasingly taken on a curious description, that is, “all-island”.

This term was used again for the recent all-Ireland (described as all-island) Choirs Festival which took place in Belfast and also in the announcement of the “All-Island Schools History Competition” (Cog Notes, November 25th).

Is this ridiculous trend going to continue?

Why are we so afraid to use the description “all-Ireland”? Are we afraid of offending certain sections of the Northern Ireland population?

Would these sections in Northern Ireland refuse to take part in these worthwhile and important activities, unless the description “all-island” is used?

Are we not all living on the island of Ireland, that is, all-Ireland? – Yours, etc, DAVE KAVANAGH Clontarf, Dublin 3.

Sir, – There are many technocratic bodies at home and abroad such as the only recently formed Fiscal Advisory Council, as well as the OECD, the IMF and the EU, which have a duty to warn us what we ought to be doing, such bodies have not always been right or far-seeing, and may in some instances be overcompensating for past omissions before the crash.

Democratic leadership has to balance what they have to say with the need to maintain the consent of the people for what requires to be done.

In the context of rising pre-election pressures, caution is needed, and the electorate would be wise in the light of experience to be sceptical of sweeping and unfulfillable promises and of those that make them.

One of the most important lessons of the crisis, and one of the least disputed in general terms, is the danger of allowing the tax base to become too narrow.

Where the reduction or abolition of a tax quickly becomes eaten bread soon forgotten, it is much more difficult to persuade the public of the need to supply an alternative source of revenue as part of a more rational re-configuration of the tax system, if a new tax, charge or rise is involved.

Leaving aside the necessity of eliminating the budget deficit and the desirability of reducing our dangerously high debt exposure, there are many crying social needs which need some of the increased resources that growth can provide. The resort to devices such as off-balance sheet financing, which usually involves deferred but higher spending, should not be overused.

Given that the Government has adopted the policy in recent years that downward budget adjustments should consist of two-thirds expenditure reductions and one-third tax increases, should not the reverse apply in the recovery, with extra resources divided into two-thirds expenditure reinstatement to one-third unwinding the more explicitly temporary and emergency tax increases?

It would be a pity if the tax-base broadening reforms of the last few years, that were long advocated, were to be lost in the clamour to abolish water charges, property tax, and the universal social charge, whatever mitigation may be required in the interests of fairness or where there is a genuine inability to pay. – Yours, etc, MARTIN MANSERGH Friarsfield House, Co Tipperary.

A chara, — Your headline in The Irish Times (November 27th) stating that unemployment has reached its lowest level since 2009 should be balanced by the statistics relating to emigration. When the figure of 250,000 plus of our citizens who have emigrated during the past five years is taken into account, it will be seen that, far from showing an improvement, the statistics reveal a dismal picture indeed. The economy has a long way to go yet before we can take heart from our employment figures. – Is mise, etc, NIALL Ó MURCHADHA An Spidéal Co na Gaillimhe

A Chara, – Had East Derry MP Gregory Campbell, directed his bigoted outburst at the immigrant or gay and lesbian communities, rather than at the Irish-speaking community (“DUP’s Campbell denied speaking rights for ‘mocking Irish’”, November 4th) cries of racism or homophobia would have been heard before now.

However, because his intolerant outburst was directed at Northern Ireland’s Irish-speaking community there is, for the most part, an uncanny silence.

The UK has signed and ratified the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ECRML).

The Westminster parliament, in 1967 and in 1993, enacted legislation to facilitate the official use of the Welsh language.

The National Assembly for Wales followed suit in 2012. The Scottish Parliament in 2005 enacted the Gaelic Language Act to facilitate and promote Scottish Gaelic.

The Council of Europe has recommended the enactment of similar legislation in Northern Ireland. But all we get from Mr Campbell are his “toilet paper” remarks.

European and British standards are seemingly fine in Britain itself but, as with flag-flying, British standards are not British enough for certain people in Northern Ireland.

Language rights are an integral part of human rights. The Belfast Good Friday Agreement is “subject to safeguards to protect the rights and interests of all sides of the community”.

The kind of intolerance articulated at the DUP Annual Conference is in clear violation of this and can have no part in Northern Ireland if we are to have peace and progress. – Is mise, etc, DÓNALL Ó RIAGÁIN, An Nás, Co Chill Dara

Sir, Fr John McCallion (Letters, November, 27th) writes on the subject of the cross on Carrauntoohil, “what is so offensive about a structure which you can see only if your up close at it or through the viewing of binoculars? What next: a bill in the Dáil for the removal of . . . the Papal Crosses at Phoenix Park and Drogheda?”.

Well now that Fr McCallion mentions it – yes, a bill in the Dáil for the removal of the Papal Cross in the Phoenix Park most definitely.

No need for “up close” or “binoculars” here.

This chunk of steel is 35.3m (116 ft) high and a blight on a beautiful landscape, which happens to belong to the people of Ireland and not the Catholic Church. People enter this park to escape from such monstrosities, only to have this thing stare them in the face.

Fr McCallion has every right to his religious symbols but he must learn to appreciate that size is everything. – Yours, etc, DECLAN KELLY, Rathfarnham, Dublin 14. Sir, Colm O’Brien, who describes himself as “. . . a recent climber of Carrauntoohil”, welcomed the anti-democratic act of vandalising the cross at the summit of Carrauntoohil (Letters, November 25th). Mr O’Brien’s attitude is contemptuous, disrespectful and reeks of metropolitan condescension.

The cross is recognised as an important navigational aid for inexperienced or “recent” climbers as well as the more experienced climber. There has been a cross at the summit of Carrauntoohil since the 1950s so the structure is exempt from any planning process Mr O’Brien cares to advocate.

All of the local people I have encountered have expressed sorrow about the incident. These people are a typical range of Irish people who have a diverse range of religious beliefs or no religious beliefs at all. The Irish countryside is more than a mere playground for metropolitans. – Yours, etc,


Institute of Technology,


Co Kerry

Sir, – David Clarke is somewhat confused (Letters, November 27th). I know of no 1916 relative that believes that they have any special place in events marking the Centenary of the Rising.

It would, of course, be absurd were that to be their position.

Relatives are, however, concerned at the fact that, to date, the Government has no definite centenary programme in place to mark the pivotal event in our nation’s history. The purpose of commemoration is to remember and pay tribute. The “Ireland Inspires” event at the GPO did neither. Not an image, mention or reference to any of the men and women of 1916 in an unprecedented airbrushing out of history in the very place where they made history.

There is a hereditary principle at the heart of this matter – those present at that now infamous gathering occupy their positions as elected representatives and office holders as a result of the great sacrifice that others made on their behalf. Freedom did not fall from the sky. It was fought for and won by a golden generation of our people who deserve to be remembered forever.

If the Government of the day are not cognisant of that fact or choose to ignore it does Mr Clarke seriously suggest that descendants of those who made that supreme sacrifice cannot as citizens comment and should remain silent?

I can think of no greater insult to our forebears – other than the “Ireland Inspires” event that is. – Yours, etc, JAMES CONNOLLY HERON, 1916 Relatives Centenary Initiative, Dublin 6.

Sir, – The issue of upward only commercial rents won’t go away, and suggesting that retailers simply “move on” (Cantillon, 25th November) appears to be pandering to the wishful thinking of a property sector in denial.

There seems to be broad agreement that the Irish upward-only rent clauses are bad for the economy, hence the reason they have now been outlawed by legislation. As a uniquely Irish mechanism they epitomised the worst excesses of an out of control property market. Given they are now outlawed by public policy, it seems hard to reconcile that they should be allowed to stand in existing leases.

In reality, present-day buyers of retail schemes – many of them foreign – will be well used to looking past the rent-roll financials and assessing the underlying health of the tenants contained within.

In cases where landlords have a “head in sand” approach what will buyers find? So there’s the rub. Property values are underpinned by the viability and vigour of the businesses that operate from them.

To be fair, some landlords of a more pragmatic nature have understood this, and deals have been done. But the music will stop for the rest, there will be more retail closures, a continued handbrake on some retail park values, and more jobs lost in Ireland.

Ironically those hurt most by these clauses were small but otherwise viable independent retailers, who are now either gone or circling the drain due to crippling rents. Sadly, their departure will further accelerate the demise of already suffering town centres.

Perhaps tomorrow you will use the same logic to write the companion article, “Negative equity costing homeowners, not the economy”.

This issue has not gone away, despite the hopes in some quarters that it will. – Yours, etc, BLAINE CALLARD CEO, Harvey Norman (Ireland), Brent House, Swords Business Park, Co Dublin.

Sir, – “I just put my arms out like a rugby ball. She started smiling at me when she came down. She just started giggling. I handed the baby to someone else . . .” ( “Young man praised as baby rescued from Dublin fire,” November 25th).

Goodness personified.

Who does one see to recommend Mr Mark Furlong as Man of The Year? – Yours, etc, JOE McPARTLIN, Mount Brown, Dublin 8.

Irish Independent:

Dearbhail McDonald’s article – ‘Without justice for the Hooded Men the spectre of torture still looms over peace’ (November 25) – discusses the call by the surviving men, Amnesty International and Northern Ireland NGOs for Ireland to ask the European Court of Human Rights to revise its 1978 judgment in Ireland v UK on the basis of new evidence the UK had withheld, and find the men were tortured.

The article poses an important question, “But will any re-trial of the Hooded Men case help heal the past?” We are convinced the answer is yes.

In our recent research on dealing with the past in the North, Amnesty canvassed the views of victims of abuses during the three decades of political violence. They came from both ‘sides’ of the conflict. Almost all felt that 16 years after the Good Friday Agreement, they still have not had their rights to truth and justice vindicated. This, they felt – and we agree – is a serious block to the ongoing search for peace and reconciliation in the North.

Therefore, 43 years after Jack Lynch’s government took the courageous step of bringing the UK to the European Court, we are appealing to the current one to follow this through. It must not shirk its moral duty by suggesting it would be to the benefit of lasting peace to let this case drop.

The North is haunted by the past because it has not been dealt with honestly. Amnesty’s research in countries emerging from conflict around the world has shown that it is those societies which have fully faced up to past abuses which are most able to move into the future with confidence. There can be no stable and lasting peace without truth and justice.

Trying to resolve the past around conference room tables without addressing the past traumas still blighting lives cannot work. The harm people suffered needs to be acknowledged if they are to rebuild their lives and their communities.

The article concludes by observing that “truth, like peace, can come with a heavy price tag”. We strongly believe that not achieving truth and justice in this case will carry a much heavier price. The clock is running down and we seriously hope the Government makes the right call – not only for those 14 brutalised ‘hooded men’ but for generations to come.

Colm O’Gorman

Executive Director

Amnesty International Ireland

Time for Kenny to go

Enda Kenny has to go. It’s not really all his fault. Tough. But there has to be a signal from this Government that things will be different.

Elements of Fine Gael guessed in 2010 that Enda might not be the man for the moment. But the amateurish failure of their heave ensured that Enda’s was the only name on the list when Brian Cowen and John Gormley went down the waste pipe. This ensured that the key positions in the new Cabinet were held by the heavies who had saved Enda’s Party skin. He let them loose to wreak political havoc and, with bizarre irony, sabotage the survival and re-election of ‘their’ (sic) Government.

Enda was unable (maybe unwilling) to establish a relationship of confidence and trust with us, the people whom he had been chosen to lead in what was nothing less than a war of national survival on global and European battlefields.

He was unable to monitor what was going on (or not going on) in the various Departments. Unable to hear warning bells. Unable to discipline or guide the big beasts. Unable to resist the old-style temptation to attempt to buy the next election before the economy was ready to ease the austerity.

His Government has been unable to function without the guidance of the Troika. What new own-goals are waiting to be scored?

Grotesquely, we find ourselves – after nearly four years of our ‘Revolutionary’ Government – politically no better off. In fact, things are worse. His failure to consult and to lead (rather than cajole) has driven a significant proportion of our population into a happy-clappy politics of unreason within which reality and common-sense have no oxygen.

If the turkeys do not arrange an early Christmas, they will lose the chance to shift the menu to geese and quails.

Maurice O’Connell

Tralee, Co Kerry

Flying the Banner for Fr Mathew

Yesterday’s story on the removal of the Fr Theobald Mathew statue from O’Connell Street, Dublin stated Fr Mathew was a Kilkenny man. Far from it.

He was born in Thomastown, Golden (not Thomastown, Kilkenny). The Cats have taken enough from us of late, but Fr Mathew remains a proud Tipperary man.

Jeddy Walsh

Clonmel, Co Tipperary

Water metering costs

Martin Glynn (‘Water meters: get the facts right’, November 26) is concerned that there is widespread ignorance, including on the part of RTE’s ‘This Week’ program, about the differences between estimates, budget cost, tender price and contract price.

Our report on the projected €431.56m water metering costs (a figure arrived at by external UK consultants) used the same terminology as that used in the official correspondence between the Department of Environment and Bord Gais Eireann.

“Budgeted Metering Programme Costs” is the description used in a detailed appendix to the correspondence and are described elsewhere as part of the “overall budget”.

Colm O Mongain

RTE, Dublin 4

Work smarter, not harder

I recently read a headline ‘the grey brigade won’t take much more pain’, economically speaking that is. Sadly the grey and the dark and the blond and every brigade that exists will be forced to take a great deal more pain as policies concocted and enacted since this recent economic crisis burst on the horizon lead nowhere but to ever increasingly pain on the way to economic collapse. They fail to understand or address what is really wrong with economics in the 21st century.

The world is in denial: pretending that historic economic policy is adequate to manage and administer an utterly changed economic situation.

Old economic certainties like always producing more (growth) and working harder have crumbled. Instead of growing and producing more we need restraint and limitation of the enormous power to produce technology has placed within our grasp.

Otherwise we continue a mad frenzy of overproduction that is already crippling commerce and turning business failure into an epidemic.

And instead of working harder and longer we must generate a lot more jobs from a lot less work, with many more people working less. I fear the present euphoria of job creation will be a short-lived mirage if we refuse to acknowledge an enormous elimination of work by automation.

Technology has changed the world: invention and innovation will not go away, so rather than be destroyed by them we must adapt.

Very influential people do not want us to think of these things. Very powerful institutions do not want such matters discussed. But it is the grey and all other coloured brigades who will pay the price squeezed by diminishing income and disappearing services to prop up a failed ideology.

The 21st century is an entirely different economic situation to any that existed before.

Until the denial stops and we embrace abundance with much less work there will be no avoidance of ever increasing pain everyone.

Padraic Neary

Tubbercurry, Co Sligo

Irish Independent


November 27, 2014

27 November 2014 Better
I still have arthritis in my left  toe I am stricken with gout. But I manage to get to do the housework.
Mary’s back much better today, breakfast weight down rabbit   for tea and her tummy  pain is still there.


Frankie Fraser – obituary
Frankie Fraser was a south London gangster who knew no language but violence and spent half his life behind bars

Frankie Fraser at Repton Boxing Club in 2005 Photo: REX FEATURES
7:40PM GMT 26 Nov 2014
Frankie Fraser, who has died aged 90, was a notorious torturer and hitman for the Richardson gang of south London criminals in the 1960s; he spent 42 years behind bars before achieving a certain cult status in later life as an author, after-dinner speaker, television pundit and tour guide.
His enduring nickname “Mad Frank” derived from his violent temperament which caused him to attempt to hang the governor of Wandsworth prison (and the governor’s dog) from a tree, and to be certified insane on three separate occasions.
At least two home secretaries considered Fraser the most dangerous man in Britain, an image which, in old age, he only half-heartedly sought to dispel. Although he was never convicted of murder, police reportedly held him responsible for 40 killings, but the bluster and bravado of a media-savvy gangland relic almost certainly inflated this tally, the actual scale of which remains unfathomable.
Physically slight at only 5ft 4in, and invariably wearing a smile and – in retirement – a sharp Savile Row suit, Frankie Fraser was nevertheless a ferocious and brutal hatchet man. His gangster “boss” Charles Richardson remembered him as “one of the most polite, mild-mannered men I’ve met but he has a bad temper on him sometimes”. Tony Lambrianou, a one-time henchman of the rival Kray brothers, was also a fan. Fraser, he recalled, “was more than capable of doing what he threatened”.
What Fraser invariably threatened was violence. Indeed, his criminality was closely bound up with what one criminologist described as an overt – almost Samurai – vindication of violent action in pursuit of inverted honour. He shot, slashed, stabbed and axed. An early nickname –“Razor Fraser” – reflected his penchant for “shivving” his enemies’ faces with a cut-throat blade.
An unregenerate villain of the deepest dye, Fraser satisfied the public appetite for vicarious thrill-seeking with a series of self-exculpatory memoirs in the 1990s that launched him on a twilight career as a celebrity criminal. But his greatest moment of national notoriety came a quarter of a century earlier, during what the media billed as the Torture Trial (in fact a series of trials) in 1967 that became one of the longest in British criminal history.
The two Richardson brothers were convicted, and the elder, Charles, sentenced to 25 years. Fraser, tried separately, was jailed for 10.
Charles Richardson was a criminal businessman who reputedly specialised in various tortures administered at secret “courts” at which he presided, sometimes robed like a judge, a knife or a gun to hand. Those who had incurred Richardson’s displeasure were wired up to a sinister black box with a wind-up handle that administered severe electric shocks to the genitals. Then they were turned over to Fraser.
So it was in January 1965, when a club owner called Benny Coulston was hauled before Richardson for swindling him out of £600 over a consignment of cigarettes. The Old Bailey jury heard, in grisly detail that still resonates 50 years on, how Frankie Fraser tried to pull Coulston’s teeth out one by one with a pair of pliers.
Shortly afterwards, Fraser kidnapped Eric Mason, a Kray gang member, outside the Astor Club in Berkeley Square, with even direr consequences. When Mason demurred, Fraser buried a hatchet in his skull, pinning his hand to his head. Mason was found, barely alive, wearing only his underpants and wrapped in a blanket, on the steps of the London Hospital in Whitechapel. “Eric wasn’t a bad fellow,” Fraser later explained, “but that particular night he was bang out of order.”
Fraser spent practically half his life behind bars. He was moved from prison to prison more than 100 times because he was virtually impossible to control. In 1945, when he was 21, he assaulted the governor at Shrewsbury prison with an ebony ruler snatched from the governor’s desk, for which he received 18 strokes of the “cat”.
On the morning of Derek Bentley’s execution at Wandsworth in 1953, he spat at the executioner Albert Pierrepoint and tried to attack him. Fraser spent a lot of time in solitary confinement, tormented by prison officers who would spit in his food. Because of Fraser’s behaviour in jail over the years, he forfeited almost every day of his remission.
He saw himself as an innovator, claiming to have invented the “Friday gang”, robbing wages clerks carrying money from banks; he would use a starting handle to beat his victims and to deter any watching “have-a-go heroes” in the street. He also claimed to have been the first bandit to wear a stocking mask. He was so attired when, in 1951, he attacked the governor of Wandsworth prison, William Lawton, as he walked his pet terrier on Wandsworth Common.
Fraser considered that Lawton had meted out cruel and vindictive punishment to him at Pentonville in 1948, and to avenge himself Fraser assumed the role of hangman. “I just waited, caught up with him, knocked him about and strung him up with his dog,” Fraser remembered. “What saved him I think was the branch; it was supple and it bent.” Although Lawton survived, the dog died.
Francis Davidson Fraser was born on December 13 1923 in Cornwall Road, a slum area of south London on the site of what is now the Royal Festival Hall. The youngest of five children, he grew up in poverty in the Elephant and Castle and Borough, areas teeming with moneylenders, prostitutes and backstreet abortionists. There was American Indian blood in him; his grandfather had emigrated to Canada in the late 19th century and married a full-blooded American Indian woman.
His parents were honest and hard-working, but Frankie and his big sister Eva, to whom he was closest, soon turned to crime. When he was 10, the pair stole a cigarette machine from a local pub, hauled it to some waste ground and jemmied it open. As a young woman, Eva became an accomplished hoister (shoplifter).
Young Frankie attended local schools, captained the football team, and acted as bookie’s runner to one of the teachers. As a reward, he was shown his examination answers, “and that’s how I come top”, he later boasted.
Fraser was just 13 when he was sent to an approved school for stealing 40 cigarettes. While still a teenager, in the spring of 1943, he took part in a daring raid to free an Army deserter from a squad sent to collect him from Wandsworth Prison. Two people were left dead.
He built a reputation as an enforcer and strongman for various gang leaders, including Billy Hill, self-styled “King of Britain’s Underworld” in the 1940s and 1950s and, in the 1960s, the Richardson brothers. At the same time Fraser was concerned to protect his West End “business interests”, chiefly the installation and operation (on an exclusive basis) in the clubs of Soho of one-armed bandits, or fruit machines, then growing in popularity. Fraser’s partner in this endeavour was Bobby Warren, an uncle of the boxing promoter Frank Warren.
Fraser owed his success in the fruit machine business to Billy Hill, whose patronage Fraser courted when he attacked and almost killed Hill’s gangland rival Jack “Spot” Comer. But Hill was already an admirer: a picture taken at a party to launch Hill’s ghosted autobiography in 1955 shows Fraser draped artistically over a piano.

Jack ‘Spot’ Comer showing the scar on his face left by Frankie Fraser and Alf Warren (GETTY)
By 1956, Fraser had racked up 15 convictions and had twice been certified insane. Despite this, or possibly because of it, newspapers of the day were tipping him as Spot’s natural successor. With Warren at his heels, Fraser ambushed Spot in a Paddington street, knocking him to the ground with a shillelagh. Both Fraser and Warren received seven-year sentences. “It sounds like the worst days of Prohibition in Chicago rather than London in 1956,” complained Mr Justice Donovan, but words were wasted on Fraser. “Nothing ever got to Frankie,” wrote Charlie Richardson. “He was a rock.”
On his release, Fraser joined Richardson’s brother Eddie in a company called Atlantic Machines, installing fruit machines at some of Soho’s most profitable sites, with Sir Noel Dryden recruited as the respectable frontman. A machine costing £400 could quickly recoup its cost if well-sited, and Fraser’s company offered club owners 40 per cent of the take rather than the standard 35 per cent as an inducement to install their machines. Fraser had no problem dealing with rival operators whose business was dented as a result.
In August 1963, invited to take part in the Great Train Robbery, Fraser pulled out because he was on the run from the police.
On the night of March 7 1966 Fraser and Eddie Richardson were badly hurt in a brawl at Mr Smith’s club in Catford, the incident that broke the Richardson family’s grip on south London. Fraser was seen kicking Richard Hart, a Kray associate, as he lay on the pavement outside. When the police arrived, they found Hart lying under a lilac tree in a nearby garden. He had been shot in the face.
Hart’s killing was avenged within 24 hours when Ronnie Kray shot George Cornell, the Richardsons’ chief lieutenant, at the Blind Beggar pub deep in Kray territory on the Mile End Road, using a 9mm Mauser semi-automatic pistol at point-blank range.
Frankie Fraser was tried at the Old Bailey for Hart’s murder, while six others, including Eddie Richardson, faced lesser charges. The judge, Mr Justice Griffith-Jones, complained of attempts to nobble one of the jurors, but in the case of Fraser, who was tried separately, he directed the jury to return a verdict of not guilty. There was no evidence that Fraser had fired the fatal shots, and although he claimed to have been “fitted up” for the killing, he was convicted of affray and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment. He was still serving his sentence for the Catford affray when he was handed a further 10 years for his part in the Richardson torture case.
In 1969 Fraser led the Parkhurst prison riot on the Isle of Wight and found himself back in court charged with incitement to murder. Although he was acquitted, a further five years were added to his sentence. Fraser was defended by a young solicitor called James Morton, who later became an author and wrote a history of London’s gangland in 1992.

Fraser in 1997 with his then girlfriend Marilyn Wisbey, daughter Of Great Train Robber Tom Wisbey (REX FEATURES)
The book upset some of those mentioned in it, and Morton was dismayed to arrive home one evening to find a message from Fraser on his answering machine, demanding to speak to him urgently. Morton was relieved that, rather than remonstrating, Fraser wanted him to write his life story. Mad Frank: Memoirs of a Life of Crime appeared in 1994, with two further volumes following in 1998 and 2001.
These recollections, while often disordered and jumbled, nevertheless shed light on Fraser’s shameless and unrepentant defiance of the liberal consensus. He appeared on pop records and in television documentaries, toured his one-man show of criminal reminiscences (flexing a pair of gilded pliers), and found himself invited into bookshops to sign copies of his memoirs. He regularly led conducted tours of East End crime scenes, invariably ending up in the Blind Beggar pub where Ronnie Kray shot George Cornell dead.
Fraser treated his various brushes with death as an occupational hazard: his thigh bone was shattered by a bullet fired during the melee in Catford, and part of his mouth was shot away in an incident in May 1991 when someone botched an attempt to assassinate him outside a nightclub in Farringdon. Questioned by police, Fraser reportedly gave his name as Tutankhamen (gangland slang for “shtum”) and asked “What incident?”

Fraser in 2009 (REX)
In the summer of 2013 it emerged that, at the age of 89, Fraser had been served with an Antisocial Behaviour Order (Asbo) after another “incident”, this time at his care home in Peckham, south London.
He claimed to have no regrets about his criminal life, apart from being caught. “Because of the type of person I am,” he wrote, “in the life I led, you learn to shrug off adversity better than people who’ve worked hard all their lives.”
Frankie Fraser’s wife Doreen, with whom he had four sons, died in 1999. For a time he was engaged to Marilyn Wisbey, daughter of the Great Train Robber Tommy Wisbey, with whom he briefly ran a massage parlour in Islington, in which Fraser made the tea.
Frankie Fraser, born December 13 1923, died November 26 2014


Theresa May speaks at the Royal United Services Institute in London on 24 November 2014, when she announced a new counter-terrorism bill to provide security services further powers to deal with threats to national security. Photograph: Will Oliver/EPA
You are wrong to say that plans to block Britons from returning to the UK raise no issue of principle (Editorial, 25 November). What could be more fundamental to British citizenship than the right to be in the UK? The state has the power to arrest, charge and imprison British people for crimes. Passports can be withheld. But the right to come home – even if only to face justice – is sacred. Exile is the shameful tool of our colonialist past. Parliament has no power to enact it without the express, deliberate, consent of the British people.
Simon Cox
Migration lawyer, Open Society Justice Initiative
• David Cameron and Malcolm Rifkind lazily scapegoat Facebook over the activities of Lee Rigby’s killers (Report, 26 November). Probably less well known is the unbroadcast footage of the men at numerous peaceful anti-war protests. Given the media has spent a decade and a half denying a voice to protesters and even the basic existence of these events, and a generation of elected political representatives has refused to recognise the strength of anti-war feeling, perhaps we should not be surprised if a minority of people have turned to violence?
Instead of learning from this, Britain’s political elite thinks that yet more repression is the answer. Muslim reprisals were predictable from the entire history of British colonialism. Even the head of MI5 warned of inevitable retaliations, but now establishment politicians are blaming internet companies? And they wonder why voters turn their back on them.
Gavin Lewis
• When Jordan Blackshaw, a young man with no previous record, posted a message on Facebook facetiously proposing a riot in the sleepy market town of Northwich, the authorities were on to it in an instant and he was jailed for four years (Report, 17 August 2011). When Michael Adebowale, an al-Muhajiroun activist and former drug dealer who heard the voices of spirits in prison, posted his intention to kill someone on Facebook, nothing happened.
Could it be that the threat to the lives of pedestrians and commuters in this country is of less consequence to the authorities than even the possibility of a threat to the political system and private property?
Peter McKenna
• The government’s plans “to order universities to ban extremist speakers from their campuses” (Terror bill requires universities to ban extremist speakers, 25 November) face the obvious problem that there is no consensus on what constitutes “extremism”. Or am I the only person left who still considers Thatcherism an “extreme” position?
Trevor Curnow
Professor of philosophy, University of Cumbria
• If a lecturer, in say international relations or Middle Eastern politics or conflict studies has the temerity to suggest that American, British or Israeli foreign policy may be the cause of terrorism and extremism, is this inciting terrorism or extremism? If they point to the role of our ally Saudi Arabia in inciting extremism or terrorism, should they be dismissed? Should their reading lists be purged of concepts such as imperialism or blowback? We are on a slippery slope that leads where Brecht forecast … Then they came for me.
Clive Tempest
Westbury on Severn, Gloucestershire
• The way to counter radicalisation in colleges et al is to engage them in dialogue and win the argument/debate, not to push them underground where they will become more attractive to students. Failing to have a reasoned answer to extremism is admitting defeat.
David Wheatley
Margate, Kent
• University students are intelligent enough to listen to radical speakers and make up their own minds about what is being said. Would that our politicians were intelligent enough to see that limiting any kind of free speech is a limitation of all.
Malcolm Brown
Kingston, Surrey
• With the proposed counter-terrorism and security bill in the news it is surprising that the most effective and obvious way of curbing terrorism is rarely mentioned. That, of course, is to stop killing Muslims. The military historian and former US army colonel Andrew Bacevich informs us that our American allies have bombed or invaded 14 Muslim countries since 1980-81.
We have participated in making war with Iraq and laying waste the state, killing many of the inhabitants. We have participated in the killing of tens of thousands of Afghans, whose land we have now invaded five times since 1838. We cannot stop terrorism by killing Muslims.
Jim McCluskey
Twickenham, Middlesex

‘We are repeatedly informed that the UK is one of the richest nations on earth,’ writes David Pugh. But the figures are misleading. Photograph: Alamy
Many contributors bemoan UK’s inability to distribute wealth fairly and provide world-class public services (Owen Jones, 24 November). We are repeatedly informed that the UK is one of the richest nations on earth. But when wealth statistics are used, they almost always refer the UK’s ranking of sixth in GDP tables, while omitting to define it correctly as GDP (nominal). While this is correct, UK is ranked sixth (2013 figures), it is also misleading, implying that we are richer than we really are. To put the UK’s relative wealth in a better perspective, you should consider GDP (PPP) – purchasing power parity – and more pertinently, GDP (PPP and nominal) per capita.
For GDP (PPP), UK is ranked 10th (World Bank and IMF figures 2013). For GDP (PPP) per capita, UK is ranked 28th (IMF) and 26th (World Bank), with a figure of approximately $36,200 per person. For GDP (nominal) per capita, UK is ranked 23rd (IMF) and 26th (World Bank), with a figure of approximately $39,300 per person. It is GDP (PPP and nominal) per capita, that represent the monetised productive output per head of the nation, and which largely generates the wealth to distribute and spend on our private and public services. Ignoring the tiny tax havens and oil states that lie above UK, we are still behind Norway, Switzerland, Australia, Denmark, Sweden, Singapore, US, Canada, Netherlands, Finland, Austria, Ireland, Belgium, Iceland, Germany, France and New Zealand. It is this relatively poor productivity and productive output in UK that leaves us struggling to match world-class standards of affluence, fairness, health, education, social services etc), most of those countries listed above have fairer distributions, higher overall living standards and better public services. The UK economy, and it’s workforce, needs to increase productivity if it is to generate the wealth necessary to compete with the countries that rank above us in GDP per capita, and hence provide the greater equality and better services most of them provide.
David Pugh
• Owen Jones’s generous views about bankers would not have been shared by JM Keynes, who said after the Wall Street crash of 1929 that he was rather in favour of the huge sums of money paid to financial people. He’d noticed that many of these individuals were by nature domineering, if not downright psychopathic, so by paying them big money you tied them into Wall Street or the City and this stopped them drifting off into their natural habitat of organised crime.
David Redshaw
Gravesend, Kent

A Turkish woman demonstrates on International Women’s Day in 2011 in Ankara. Turkey’s prime minister Recep Erdogan has said Islam defines the role of women in motherhood only. Photograph: Adem Altan/AFP/Getty
Your article (Inside Islamic State’s oil empire: how captured oilfields fuel Isis insurgency, 19 November, puts forward claims about Turkey that are mutually exclusive with the facts about the fight of Turkish security forces against smuggler groups that are in the Turkish headlines almost daily. In response to the advance of Daesh [Islamic State] towards towns along our Syrian border, additional army units were deployed to combat illegal border crossings as well as armed Syrian or Iraqi smuggler groups. Thanks to the efforts of the Turkish forces, 78m litres of oil was captured in 2013 before it could be smuggled. The figure is 62m litres for the first eight months of 2014. Members of the Turkish security forces lost their lives during the fight against smuggling.
Turkey has been vocal on establishing a comprehensive strategy against clearing the Daesh threat. Turkey and the UK have an outstanding level of cooperation against terrorism and we call on the international community to get together and start implementing this strategy to bring peace to the war-torn region.
Abdurrahman Bilgiç
Turkish ambassador in London
• The Turkish prime minister, Recep Erdoğan, is wrong to claim that the feminist movement rejects motherhood or that Islam defines the role of women as motherhood only (Report, 25 November). Feminism is about the empowerment of women and establishing and defending equal rights in society. The early history of Islam provides examples of the central role women played in agriculture, business and trade and war. Often characterised as a devout Muslim, Mr Erdogan shows a distinct lack of knowledge of the history of Islam which, at the time of its advent, provided radical ideas regarding the rights of women in Arab society in marriage, divorce, education and inheritance – centuries before other cultures adopted these ideas. This at a time when it was not uncommon in some tribes to kill daughters at birth. The teachings of early Islam aimed to instigate a revolution that its modern interpreters, in their quest for powerful, patriarchal structures, conveniently forget.
Mr Erdoğan uses tired and discredited millennia-old arguments, wrapped in faux reverence about the place of motherhood in Islam, to undermine the hard-fought and as yet incomplete struggle for equality for women in modern societies. He may do better to implement Turkey’s constitution, which provides equal rights to men and women.
Aamir Ahmed

A sign with avian flu advice at the entrance to a UK farm. ‘Local vets are a trusted source of key information and this is fundamental to ensuring robust disease control,’ writes John Blackwell. Photograph: Paul Mogford/Apex
On the same day as you describe apparent manoeuvrings by the supermarkets to try to avoid the proper exposure of the extent of campylobacter infections in chickens (Tesco director may face scrutiny over lobbying about chicken report, 26 November), you also report that ministers are considering the supposed “elimination of the burden” on farms by reducing health inspections (Coalition plans reducing avian flu farm checks). Does no one in government believe in joined-up thinking, or is it totally in hock to the food industry?
Dr Richard Carter
• BVA understands the pressures on public spending and the need for efficiencies and appropriate lessening of the regulatory burden on business, including the agriculture sector. However, we cannot overstate the importance of any cuts or changes being carefully considered from a fully informed perspective and with an eye to long-term consequences, not simply short-term expediency. Cuts cannot come at the expense of animal welfare and health, which if compromised can have serious consequences for human health and for food production.
Defra works closely with vets and is aware of the critical role vets play in disease surveillance – Defra’s own survey highlights that local vets are a trusted source of key information to their clients and this is fundamental to ensuring robust disease control and eradication strategies. Our message to Defra is: don’t downgrade the role of vets in food safety and animal health and welfare. It is important to stress that any attempt to reduce regulation by the government should not increase risk by reducing the pivotal role that vets carry out in public health and food safety, alongside animal health and welfare.
John Blackwell BVSc MRCVS
President, British Veterinary Association

1956, San Francisco, California, USA. L to R: Bob Donlin, Neal Cassady, Allen Ginsberg, Robert LaVinge, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, stand outside Ferlinghetti’s City Lights Bookstore. Photograph: Allen Ginsberg/Corbis
At last an article that deals with issues which lay “like seeds beneath the snow”, to quote Colin Ward (Bohemia isn’t lost. It has just gone underground, 25 November). A conspiracy of silence seems to grip the media when grappling with the idea that those who don’t vote are apolitical/apathetic. My constituency is the elephant in the room – political philosophies of anarchism and pacifism. For 50 years we the undersigned have been involved with peace and freedom as described above. As activists and interpreters and poets. We believe in direct democracy, nonviolent civil disobedience and campaigning. We believe in a non-nuclear, non-military neutral society. We are part of a tradition as shared by Godwin and Shelley, Thoreau and Tolstoy, Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid, and Emma Goldman’s Individualism, Herbert Read and Alex Comfort’s books, and Chomsky and Bookchin’s ideas. Poets like Snyder and Rexroth, Adrian Mitchell and Lawrence Ferlinghetti (now 95 ). We may be “underground” but we are a considerable minority needed even more in our surveillance, “privatised” society. We are the seeds beneath the snow looking forward to the “withering away of all governments”.
Dennis Gould and Jeff Cloves
RiffRaffPoets 1970

In an effort to honour those men from our village in north Essex who gave their lives for their country, we have been disappointed to find that, whereas most charity giving organisations will look favourably on funding nearly anything to do with war memorials, such as renovation, adding names etc, there appears to be none willing to assist with funding for construction of a new war memorial. Our village has no memorial and dearly wishes to have one. Most villagers have contributed towards one and plans are ahead to raise even more funds. But there is a limit to the amount that can be raised from such a small population and so we cannot raise the full amount required, yet we are determined to build one. Surely there are organisations which will look favourably on us?
Lt Col (retd) Michael Estcourt
Colne Engaine War Memorial Committee

A sign at Griffin Park, Brentford. Photograph: David Levene
Why has the Guardian has got itself in such a tizzy about the Prince of Wales writing to government ministers (Report, 25 November)? Surely we should be concerned with whether the government ever took any notice of what he wrote?
David Thornton
Newcastle upon Tyne
• I feel compelled to point out the absence of certain acknowledgments in the article about the making of Illuminatus! (Make it wilder!, 19 November), starting with the lead photograph, which featured Pru Gee, mother of Daisy Eris Campbell, Ken being her father. Pru was, in fact, hoisted atop a forklift truck for this breathtakingly beautiful scene. The photograph was one of a series of production photographs taken by Alan Bell, commissioned by the National Theatre. Illuminatus! was co-written and co-directed by Ken Campbell and Chris Langham, who should be given equal credit. For the record, the production starred Neil Cunningham, in a glittering performance as Hagbard Celine.
Richard Adams
• When Ian Jack (Saturday, 22 November) bemoans the length of modern films, it should be remembered that when people went to the cinema in the 1950s and 60s, for their entrance fee they would see two films plus a news feature. The main film would last an average of 100 minutes, the second feature perhaps 86 minutes, and then advertisements maybe eight to 10 more. Single film screening means when a film is now made it has to be long enough to justify people spending the £10 or £12 ticket price. This time is padded out by adverts and promos, and can extend these up to 30 minutes. The problem is, that few stories can justify the length of time the market dictates, hence the extended special effects. These will get louder and of course longer.
Charles Cronin
• Not all football terrace chants are brutish (Is Britain’s beautiful game really so nasty?, 24 November). Last Friday at Griffin Park, Brentford’s supporters celebrated a last-minute victory against their west London rivals by adapting the tune of Knees Up Mother Brown with the joyous ode “Bees up Fulham down”.
Richard Tippett
Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire
• This seems to me to be tinkering with the problem of social division. Why doesn’t the Labour party stop faffing around and remove the charitable status from private schools? And while they’re about it get rid of selective schools: grammar and faith schools.
Maggie LeMare

Thurston Hopkins, left, with Peter Sellers in 1956. Photograph: John Chillingworth/Getty Images
Thurston Hopkins was one of the few surviving photographers from what came to be referred to as the “golden age” of reportage. Arguably it was his background in fine art and illustration that meant he saw the world as much through the sensibility of a brush as a lens. This, combined with his sensitivity towards his subjects, meant that he was destined to become a star of Picture Post.
As friends for nearly 30 years, he and I often wrote to each other – on life, the universe and everything, not just photography – and his letters were a work of art in themselves. Composed on a battered manual typewriter with various letters missing, they would be awash with handwritten additions, Tipp-Ex and notes in the margins, and were often hilarious, whether intentionally or otherwise. Thurston had many ways of bringing his gift for connecting with people into play.


Tristram Hunt is trying to fix the wrong thing (“Head of Hunt’s old school accuses him of ‘offensive bigotry’ ”, 26 November). The needs of the 93 per cent of the children in England whose parents do not pay for their schooling are not best served by going after the 7 per cent in independent schools whose parents do.
While he is right to urge more and more partnership working, he is wrong to underplay how much good cross-sector work is already going on. In adopting this combative mode, he is in danger of repeating the mistakes of so many before him, and turning the conversation on improving education into a slanging match. The best way to encourage independent schools to share is to engage them in positive dialogue, rather than issuing threats and ultimatums.
Leo Winkley
Head Master, St Peter’s School, York

Two recent news items have coincided which raise the issue of the ongoing charitable status of private schools.
The head of an expensive establishment commented that the soaring fees being charged are being driven by the popularity of what they offer to the offspring of “oligarchs”. It is difficult to see why taxpayers are allowing charitable status to be extended to the education of ultra-rich foreign students.
Simultaneously, Ed Miliband has stated that if returned to power he will seek ways of forcing the private sector into increasing its support for state schools.
Both issues could be addressed more simply by requiring these schools to charge VAT on the fees paid for non-British students. If the headteacher is right, then this would have little effect on the demand for places.
Such a plan might also require that these enterprises, since they are in fact businesses, should forgo any VAT relief due on the costs they incur in buying goods and services.
Monies so raised could be applied to any purpose, including the improvement of the state sector of education.
Tim Brook

The argument by the head of King’s College School in Wimbledon that an “endless queue” of rich families from outside Britain is pushing up fees is puzzling: do these rich parents refuse to send their children here unless the schools charge high fees? Pity the poor headteachers that have to accept such blackmail.
Paul Burall
Drayton, Norfolk

If the Labour Party was serious about bridging the gap between state and independent schools, they could advocate a simple policy of “state before private” in any publicly funded employment. Why should privately educated citizens take positions in the Civil Service, armed forces, judiciary and the BBC?
I cannot understand why these people wish to detach themselves from “normal” citizens until they are almost adults and then assume their right to govern us. Those who support the public services should be ruled by their peers.
I S Maclean

Perhaps if we referred to them as “charity schools” instead of “public schools” we might get somewhere – especially if we could rely on broadcasters to then use the same disdainful tone when referring to them that they adopt when referring to other state benefits and their recipients.
Sue Holder
Aberaeron, Ceredigion

Reasonable man driving a cab
What a shame that Brian the Cabbie has to mix with “bullies and braggarts” like David Mellor. Brian sounds like a reasonable and temperate man, who seems to have conducted himself with dignity and great restraint; David Mellor sounds like a waste of space who, despite his education and power, did not.
Well done to Brian: I doubt very much whether I would have behaved nearly as well as he did under the circumstances.
Susan Bittker

My uncle was better off in an institution
The proposal to close all units caring for people with learning difficulties and transfer their residents to community care is being made for the best of intentions, but a “one-size-fits-all” solution may not be the best for all people with learning difficulties (“NHS report: the ‘evils’ of institutional care must end”, 26 November).
Following a severe brain infection as an infant (this was before MRIs were invented so no one is sure whether it was meningitis or encephalitis), my uncle was left with severe and profound learning difficulties. By his teens his behaviour was violent to the point of being unmanageable, and his family was left with no option but to place him in an institution.
It is true that some of the places he lived over the years were grim, and I am sure there was neglect. But finally he ended up in an institution (long since closed) with caring staff, where all residents had their own bedrooms and sitting rooms to call home, a shop and lots of activities for them to do, and where the residents, all of whom had severe learning difficulties, could have as much independence as they were capable of, but where carers could help them with all those tasks that they were unable to do (in some cases washing and dressing), and where those with challenging behaviour were safe and protected. When my uncle passed away a few years ago, it was in an institution he called home, living with residents and carers he called friends.
Far too often we see stories in the press of elderly people, relying on home carers, being left unattended, of not receiving the care they need, and even dying because home carers don’t visit. Yet it is being proposed to add more vulnerable people into this same system, and leave them to the mercies of underfunded home carers out in the community, or relying on families for care, at a time when government cuts have decimated welfare provision and disabled services. For some (such as my uncle), community care would be utterly inappropriate, and would leave them at greater risk.
Rather than blanket closing of all institutional facilities, surely it would be better to adopt the best practices of the good homes, and strictly and ruthlessly enforce them, so that whose who cannot be cared for in the community still have a haven they can call home.
Name and address supplied

Windfarms leave a concrete legacy
I completely agree with Alistair Wood’s letter of 22 November, but I would like to add a comment regarding the term “temporary turbines”.
One existing large wind farm in mid-Wales is to be upgraded by replacing the existing turbines with much bigger turbines. The developer has said that he will construct new concrete pads for the new turbines and that while the old turbines will be removed the old concrete pads and associated roadways will not. Presumably this process could continue until the whole of Wales is covered in concrete.
When a windfarm is built in an important and beautiful area such as mid-Wales the developer should be forced to deposit a sufficient sum to “make good” once the life of the “temporary” windfarm has come to an end.
Steve Elliott

Blokish salutation to start the weekend
Please, please can the editor stop opening his Saturday letters to readers with “Morning all”? It sounds either unnecessarily blokish or as if he is parodying Dixon of Dock Green (a sort of early soap opera only remembered by your more mature readers). I cringe when I read it.
I really can’t think what it is intended to convey. Anyway, I would be very happy for him to leave out this curious salutation.
Robert Hobbs
Richmond, Surrey

No jihad for Quakers
John Phillips’ statement that there is no need to rebut the charge of “malevolence” against Quakers (letter, 26 November) is no doubt true, for the very good reason that Quakers refuse military service.
However, his implied comparison of Quakers with Muslims must not go unchallenged: he is comparing a sect within Christianity with the whole of Islam, itself divided into various sects. This is not a just comparison.
John Dakin
Toddington, Bedfordshire

Museums for the workers
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (24 November) writes: “Only two British museums [both in Manchester] are dedicated to working-class stories.” Perhaps the next time Ms Alibhai-Brown is in Scotland she may find time to visit the People’s Palace in Glasgow, which was opened in 1898.
M J Morris
Hamilton, Lanarkshire

Save children, not Blair
I am astonished and horrified to learn that Save the Children have given an award to Tony Blair. Unless they rescind it they can expect no more donations from me.
Barry Tighe
Woodford Green, Essex


Sir, Tristram Hunt’s remarks that too many private schools offer only a “charade” of minimal help for children of families unable to afford their fees (“Labour to curb private schools’ tax breaks”, Nov 25), show his ignorance of the bursary schemes and scholarships that are available. My school has always provided bursaries for day pupils and for the past 11 years has done the same for boarders from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Through two foundations, we pay the entirety of the fees for 10 per cent of pupils, which does not include the means-tested bursaries and scholarships awarded to other students. Hardly “minimal”, hardly a “charade”.
Peter Green
Head master, Rugby School

Sir, All the fees assistance, partnership and sponsorship work by UK independent schools is fantastic, but this is missing the point. The real benefit is the saving for the Department for Education which does not have to educate 7 per cent of the nation’s children. In my former London school the savings were £5.4 million a year based on capitation only, which is far less than the tax advantages of having charitable status.
Louise Simpson
São Paulo, Brazil
Sir, You quote the current head of University College School, Hampstead — Tristram Hunt’s former school — as saying it has “a diverse pupil population with £1 million per annum granted for assistance, the vast majority for 100 per cent bursaries” (Public school head attacks Labour old boy, Nov 26). Given that there are 1,200 pupils and fees are just less than £20,000 a year, it represents less than 5 per cent of the school population. Not so diverse when considered in those terms.
Michael Robinson
Onston, Cheshire

Sir, There seems to be an emerging correlation between the degree of privilege that socialist politicians enjoyed in their youth and their apparent desire to dismantle the system that so favoured them. If this legislation is enacted the damage to both private and state school pupils would be unforgivable.
Deryk I King
Solihull, W Midlands

Sir, By sending their children to private/independent schools, the most demanding, influential and articulate parents have only a passing interest in the education of the vast majority. Were their children to attend the same schools as ours, rest assured that all schools would be funded adequately and the highest standards assured for all.
Ian Ducat
Coaley, Glos

Sir, The insinuation that independent schools fail in their duty to support the maintained sector through partnerships is misinformed. Independents are increasingly working with maintained schools, sharing good practice and resources. Working at a school that joint-sponsors an academy, the mutual benefits for both of our schools is significant.
Samantha Price
Headmistress, Benenden, Kent

Sir, In the UK only 7 per cent of children go to private schools and that figure is static. In Australia it is 33 per cent and rising. Almost all are day schools. There are many of the same concerns about educational opportunities but Australians have fewer concerns about class. There, the state and federal governments give financial support to private schools; fees are therefore lower than in UK and more people can afford private education. It will not happen here: the left enjoys the posturing and what passes for the right would not dare to propose such a measure.
Bill Hutchison
Hill Head, Hants

Sir, My dictionary describes a charity as “an organisation or institution for helping those in need”. I am intrigued to know how a public school falls into this category.
Denis Steer
Morden, Surrey

Sir, Studies continue to show that state school pupils do better at university than comparable private school pupils. Might Tristram Hunt and Boris Johnson perhaps ask the state sector if they can lend a helping hand to those handicapped by a fee-paying education.
Adrian Perry

Sir, In the Wales v New Zealand game on Saturday the two water boys were Dan Carter, the current All Blacks fly half, and Neil Jenkins, the Wales fly half (1991-2003), who have 2,555 points and 194 caps between them. I wonder if Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard have any plans after retiring?
Phil Owen
Radyr, Cardiff

Sir, The jury which decided that police officer Darren Wilson should not stand trial for killing Michael Brown in Missouri consisted of nine white and three black men and women (News, Nov 26). Perhaps notice should have been taken of a regulation by English Quaker William Penn, governor of Pennsylvania in the 1680s, under which “all differences between planters and natives shall be ended by 12 men, that is, six planters and six natives; that so we may live friendly together and, as much as in us lies, prevent all occasions of heart burnings and mischief”.
Dr Peter van den Dungen
Peace studies, University of Bradford

Sir, What hope is there for the NHS when Jeremy Hunt shows ignorance of parts of the health service (“Health secretary takes children to A&E”, Nov 26)? Millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money are spent to provide GP out-of-hours services which are open whenever the GP surgery is closed — and yet he chose to attend A&E. He chose to see a junior doctor instead of an experienced GP, and he chose not to contact the 111 service set up to advise on which services are appropriate. Mr Hunt also seems to be unaware of the £150 million initiatives being funded by the prime minister’s challenge fund to support GP working seven days a week 8am-8pm. Why is he so poorly briefed?
Dr Emma Rowley-Conwy
Chairwoman, Seldoc (out of hours
GP services in Lambeth, Lewisham, Southwark and Sutton)

Labour Party’s threat to independent schools; sharia in Britain; the future of London’s airports; two-tree Christmas households; German-born hamsters and modern artists

More than 2,000 private schools across Britain can claim up to 80 per cent cut in their business rates because they are charities, worth around £150 million annually
7:00AM GMT 26 Nov 2014
SIR – Once again the Labour Party is threatening British independent schools, which are among the best schools in the world.
The idea of forcing independent schools to have links with state schools has not come at the request of teachers from state schools, let alone parents: it is the bright idea of Labour politicians.
The success of independent schools is not dependent on their wealth but on that glorious word “independent”. They must satisfy the parents, whereas state schools must satisfy politicians – many of whom send their own children to independent schools.
Parents should be allowed to choose any state school that has a spare place, with all admissions arranged directly between the parents and the school and not by the local authority bureaucrats. This would cost nothing and improve schools overnight.
G E Hester
Bolton, Lancashire

SIR – Tristram Hunt, the shadow education secretary, should understand that the success of private schools stems from hard work and discipline from both staff and pupils. They have a much longer day, enabling extracurricular subjects, such as sport and drama, to be included. Time off for holidays would certainly not be accepted.
Until the state system can follow this example, it will always be at a disadvantage.
Susan Fagan
Fulmer, Buckinghamshire
SIR – Socialist thinking has always been underscored by the principle that “somewhere, somehow, someone is better off than I am and that shouldn’t be allowed”. Now Mr Hunt seeks to squeeze private schools further, which is likely to result in such an education becoming the privilege only of the super-rich.
Michael Nicholson
Dunsfold, Surrey
SIR – Mr Hunt has got it the wrong way round. He should send state school teachers into private schools to learn how to get children into top universities and help them achieve sporting success.
Lenore Nicholas
Baschurch, Shropshire
SIR – Children of intelligent and educated parents have a distinct advantage over children whose parents are neither intelligent nor educated.
Should intelligent and educated parents be taxed at a higher rate?
Kyriacos Kaye
Telford, Shropshire
SIR – Mr Hunt believes that £136 million in business rates relief minus £4 billion in savings from public sector education costs equals “something for nothing”. Perhaps he’s right – he did attend a private school, and his sums seem a bit ropey.
Crispin Edwards
Stockport, Cheshire
Sharia in Britain
SIR – As a lawyer specialising in wills, I would say that there is no question of Sharia being enshrined in English law.
The principle that a person may leave his property to anyone he chooses has survived, very nearly without qualification, into the modern era. If a Muslim wishes to will his estate according to a scheme that reflects Islamic rules of succession, he may do so as a matter of choice. A non-Muslim may make a similar will preferring his male heirs for entirely non-religious reasons.
English law respects such choices and does not inquire into their motives.
James MacDougald
London WC2
It pays to breastfeed
SIR – The health service is already in financial chaos and now the “blue sky thinkers” intend to give up to £200 each to breastfeeding mothers.
This money would be better spent improving breastfeeding help during the immediate postnatal period. Staff shortages mean this area is neglected too often.
I wonder how it will be proven that the mothers who receive this money are in fact still feeding.
Virginia Baldock
Fareham, Hampshire
Rebuild Parliament

SIR – Let’s not spend billions renovating the Palace of Westminster.
Let’s hand it over to the National Trust as a relic and spend the money on a building that incorporates debating chambers designed to promote debate, not confrontation.
Elisabeth Brown
The man with the best airport plans
SIR – Although the initial groups of pilots we trained to bring Concorde into passenger service with British Airways were mainly highly experienced airline captains, the man who stood out from the rest, with his technical and theoretical understanding, was a softly spoken young co-pilot named William “Jock” Lowe.
It was no surprise when he was the first to be promoted to captain and remain on Concorde. Today, he is the man who identified the idea of extending the runway at Heathrow (the Hub) as the best solution for increasing passenger capacity in the South East.
Politicians – even Boris – can therefore rest assured that Jock has analysed and considered every other possible alternative.
Brian Christley
Abergele, Conwy
SIR – Expansion at Gatwick would require major infrastructure work to handle the volume of extra passengers and employees required. Heathrow, the aviation hub of the country, is bursting at its seams. Logic and economic sense should be the guiding principles, and the Airports Commission consultation shows that an extra runway at Heathrow would bring twice the return of one at Gatwick. In business terms, Gatwick ought to be a non-starter.
A T Brookes
Charlwood, Surrey
SIR – I would always choose to fly from a local airport in the Midlands, if only Heathrow Airport Holdings released its stranglehold and allowed other airports to compete for business.
David J Hartshorn
Badby, Northamptonshire
The two-tree tradition is not just for mansions

O Tannenbaum: the Great Hall of Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire echoes a German tradition (
SIR – It is absurd to suggest that anyone with two Christmas trees must have a mansion.
We have had two trees since living in Germany, where it is traditional to erect a tree decorated with white lights outside one’s home on the first Advent Sunday.
Sandra Hawke
Andover, Hampshire
SIR – The festive spirit appears to melt like a snowman in hot weather just after noon on December 25, even though Boxing Day is an integral part of Christmas.
The happier and wiser person is the one who partakes in Boxing Day pastimes such as the hunts, rather than racing to the sales.
John Barstow
Pulborough, West Sussex
Trade with EU states
SIR – Mats Persson makes the assumption that upon withdrawal from the European Union, Britain would have to negotiate a Norwegian or Swiss-style agreement in order to trade with the EU. This is not so.
Most nations trade with each other subject to simple bilateral trade agreements under World Trade Organisation rules, which prohibit discriminatory barriers. We do not need to be the 51st state of America in order to trade with that country. We have to comply with certain regulations, but our laws are not made in Washington.
Neither do we need to invoke “Article 50” of the Lisbon Treaty, whereby our withdrawal is controlled (and sabotaged) by the EU. By simply repealing the European Communities Act 1972 we can restore the supremacy of national law over EU law and remove EU legislation from our body of law.
We can then withdraw from the EU unilaterally and unconditionally, which is legal under international law, and has many precedents.
Rodney Howlett
Darley Dale, Derbyshire
Sporting success

SIR – How wonderful to have a British driver as Formula 1 champion for the second time, in a car manufactured in England, with an engine manufactured in England. What a shame that the victory feels a little tarnished because Lewis Hamilton feels the need to live in Monaco, where he is not required to contribute to British taxes.
Lucy Fletcher
Meonstoke, Hampshire
SIR – Lewis Hamilton will probably be voted the 2014 BBC Sports Personality of the Year. But what about 75-year-old Sir Robin Knox-Johnston?
He was totally alone for three weeks, with only a yacht for company and the unforgiving winter Atlantic waiting to catch him out. He did not have millions of pounds or dozens of engineers and technicians to perfect his steed, nor a vast pit crew assisting him.
What an achievement for Sir Robin to come third in a winter solo transatlantic yacht race against competitors less than half his age.
David Webster
London W5
Cut it out
SIR – Most condiment sachets do incorporate a small “v” to assist opening (Letters, November 22), but they generally don’t work.
The Rest and Be Thankful Inn at Wheddon Cross is thoughtful enough to supply a small pair of scissors in each pot of sachets. Might this catch on?
Paul Hart
Minehead, Somerset
In the name of art
SIR – Reiner Ruthenbeck has either had his grandchildren to visit or has just been burgled. His “art” hardly represents “quiet observations of domestic events”.
John Tilsiter
Radlett, Hertfordshire
SIR – I have just spread our dining room chairs across the room on their sides. My wife does not appear to appreciate the artistic merit of this exercise.
Chris Yates
Peasedown St John, Somerset
Hamster run
SIR – The abiding memory of my stay with a German family (Letters, November 21) was Max the hamster.
Max was presented to me as a leaving present, and he travelled by train with me back to Cumbria, in a biscuit tin punctured with air holes. My decision to give him a “run around” ensured that I had the compartment entirely to myself.
Patricia Donati
London SW6

Irish Times:

Sir, – To suggest that upward-only commercial rents are not negatively impacting the Irish economy (Cantillon, November 25th) is fundamentally flawed.
Most retailers are struggling to pay Celtic Tiger rents. They must pay to stay in business. So what gives? The largest variable cost to hand – jobs. I am aware of many retailers who have moved from a full-serve model to a self-serve model to ensure the rent is paid. At what cost? Jobs.
Our previous Government made upward-only rent clauses on new leases illegal. Does this suggest this flawed system is fit for purpose and good for the economy?
Upwardonly rents are costing jobs and are detrimental to the domestic economy. To suggest otherwise is inaccurate and wrong.
This week I met the global managing director of a large retailer who cannot sustain their Irish property cost. Is what they are planning good for the Irish economy? I think not.
What is most disturbing is the fact that many small Irish retailers are stuck with these leases, which in turn are tied to personal guarantees. Don’t pay the rent and you lose your business and your home. Surely this distressing situation contributes nothing to the economy? It also underlines why there is such little appetite or even ability to pay wage increases in the domestic economy.
Both Retail Excellence Ireland and many of our members deal with this matter every day of every week.
Others are more than welcome to keep their heads buried in the sand. – Yours, etc, DAVID FITZSIMONS, Chief Executive, Retail Excellence Ireland, 38-39 Fitzwilliam Square, Dublin 2
Sir, – Whatever about the rights and wrongs concerning the rendition of a rebel song by John Delaney of the FAI, it should be borne in mind that songs of a jingoistic nature, otherwise known as national anthems, are regularly performed at football stadiums throughout the world.
The national anthem of the United States speaks of “rockets red glare, bursting in air”, while the British anthem calls on God to “scatter her [the Queen’s] enemies” and our own national anthem, translated into English, tells us that “cannons roar and rifles peal”. – Yours, etc, JOHN FAGAN, Killiney, Co Dublin. Sir, – To offer some empathy and solidarity to John Delaney, I would like to offer my sincerest apologies to anybody over the years who may have heard me singing Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues. I, in no way, advocate the senseless shooting of men in Reno just to watch them die.
I would also like to promise that from now on I will no longer sing Maxwell’s Silver Hammer by the Beatles, I Shot the Sheriff by Bob Marley.
And to my wife: I have destroyed my Tom Jones CD as I now appreciate the dangerous influence that the singing along to Why, Why, Why Delilah might one day have on our relationship. – Yours, etc, DARREN WILLIAMS, Sandyford, Dublin 18.
Sir, – FAI chief executive John Delaney is undoubtedly a remarkable football man.
Who else could shoot themselves in the foot, score an own-goal while blatantly offside? – Yours, etc, MICHAEL CULLEN, Sandycove, Co Dublin.

Sir, – When a Dubliner moves to another county, as I did seven years ago, the Irish arts scene reveals itself as very Dublin-centric.
So I applaud Minister for Arts Heather Humphrey’s decision to give national status to Wexford Opera House. It is an artistically and economically sound decision.
Wexford is recognised internationally as Ireland’s home of opera, much as the provincial town of Bayreuth is in Germany.
Wexford Opera House is a beautiful venue. The capacity of the main hall (771) accurately reflects the niche appeal opera has in Ireland.
Let’s not kid ourselves, opera is not a beloved national art form here as it is in central Europe!
The Arts Council-commissioned Arts Audiences report shows opera had the poorest attendance figures of all the musical arts in 2013 (133,000). More than twice as many people attended folk events (286,000). Even jazz (177,000) had better figures, remarkable since most jazz venues are minuscule compared to Wexford Opera House.
I attended Wide Open Opera’s excellent production of Nixon in China at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre in Dublin last May but I did note many empty seats.
If there is really a demand for a dedicated National Opera House in Dublin, surely that modest three-night run would have sold out?
So, if Dublin-based opera lovers like Christopher McQuaid (Letters, November 25th) can afford to regularly travel around Europe to follow their passion, surely it’s not too much trouble for them to travel down the road to Wexford to our new National Opera House! – Yours, etc, DR DAVE FLYNN, Clare Memory Orchestra , Ballyvaughan, Co Clare. Sir, – Wexford is the only location for the National Opera House because it is the place for the best opera in Ireland.
The idea of naming a theatre in Dublin the National Opera House because Dublin is the capital, is illogical.
Indeed, it is a shame that so many lovely theatres in Dublin are in such dangerous locations.
At the best of times, Dublin is not a pleasure to visit and if I have to travel beyond Munster to see opera, then I would choose London rather than Dublin.
Wexford has better opera than Dublin and an opera culture. All the town gets involved during the festival and it is a joy to visit for a week in Autumn without the dangers of inner-city Dublin.
The idea that Dublin must have everything is tedious for the majority of the population who live outside Dublin.
Perhaps that is the reason Dublin has all the problems first – traffic, water quality, housing and crime. – Yours, etc, SE LYDON, Wilton, Cork.

Sir, – In all but name and comprehensive legal protection, Irish Travellers already constitute an ethnic group with a distinct culture, traditions, long shared history, language and customs that make them “self-identify” as a separate group and be identified by the majority Irish population as a separate group to which they do not belong.
Travellers – uniquely in Ireland – have a dual identity being Irish and Traveller.
Travellers born abroad are still Irish Travellers – ethnicity over residency or citizenship. Being afforded ethnic status would not reduce their status as Irish.
In the UK, Irish Travellers have been recognised as an ethnic minority “distinct from non-Traveller Irish people” since 2000 and 1997 in Northern Ireland. With no ill consequences accruing.
Travellers should be accorded their right to “self identify” as a positive and progressive strategy for broader inclusion and greater legal protection.
Acknowledgement by the State could help create the right conditions for enhanced community respect, a rightful symbolic and overdue gesture which has potential to shape new relationships and enhanced engagement with the State and others.
Seán McDonagh (Letters, “Travellers and Ethnic Identity”, November 20th), writes “To declare them a distinct ethnic group risks perpetuating disadvantage.”
Recognition of Traveller ethnicity is not a panacea, however it is at the heart of how Travellers might become less unequal in Irish society.
Perpetuating disadvantage is not a threat derived from recognition, rather it is a “re-righting” of a wrong in which Travellers are frequently treated as criminals, untouchables, violent and an underclass. Where the actions of a minority of Travellers have led to stereotyping of all Travellers.
The protection of ethnic identity is well grounded in international law. The State’s anomalous position of offering no adequate legal protection in the face of international recommendations, and a desire by most Travellers as stated over 20 years, is inadequate and out of sync with human rights standards. – Yours, etc, JACINTA BRACK, Irish Traveller Movement, 4-5 Eustace Street, Dublin 2.

Sir, – Heartiest congratulations to Nóirín O’Sullivan, the new Garda Commissioner.
It is tempting to view her appointment as a ho-hum, nothing to see here, Irish non-solution to very serious problems in An Garda Síochána. Especially since, during her interim appointment, the penalty points scandal motored on apace, even as she ordered that it be halted.
However, as a veteran police officer, Ms O’Sullivan knows what reforms are needed and knows how to implement them.
Her comment that there will be a culture of transparency in the police force is hardly reassuring.
This kind of blah might have been acceptable in the days where An Garda Síochána was the personal fiefdom of the commissioner. No longer.
Many of us have read the Garda Inspectorate report. We know how and where the force is broken. We know the reforms needed to fix it. We do not want the Commissioner to tell us that under her guidance all will be well.
That worked when we were hand-wringing obsequious, peasants. No more.
We want the reforms outlined in the Garda Inspectorate report to be implemented, starting now. We want progress reports. We want gardaí who refuse to implement the instructions of the Commissioner to be fired, without a golden hand shake.
This is not rocket science. This is policing 101. And it’s long overdue. – Yours, etc, PATRICIA R MOYNIHAN, Castaheany, Co Dublin.

Sir, – As the centenary of 1916 draws closer, many events are being planned by different groups.
The Government, by not clarifying its plans for commemoration, have left groups like ours in a limbo, where we cannot even decide a date that does not clash with the national commemoration.
I am chairman of the Fingal Old IRA, an association set up in the 1940s to help members of the 5th Battalion IRA, the Fingal Brigade.
In previous years our association has been sidelined, and, given that the most successful engagement of the Rising took place in Ashbourne, the members of the Fingal Brigade deserve more recognition.
Three members of the Fingal Brigade died in Easter Week, including John Crenigan of Roganstown and Thomas Rafferty of Lusk. A call had come from the GPO for some volunteers and James Crenigan, brother of John and Peter Wilson from Swords were two of those who went into town. They were sent to the Mendicity Institute and it was there that Peter Wilson lost his life.
From these simple facts, you can see why the Fingal Old IRA commemoration committee is anxious to put in place a programme of events to honour the members of the brigade.
Taoiseach, Minister Humphreys, is it a State secret what the government plans to do? – Yours, etc,
Fingal Old IRA,
Co Dublin.

Sir, – In a piece with rather spectacular and generalised claims, Chris Johns (“Social media causes grave damage and must be regulated”, November 24th) represents another clamour for “regulating” social media.
This area requires a long-term approach that most do not want to hear.
Concerning young people, this includes the upskilling of parents and school staff at a local, community and technological level. Reporting abuse, taking cues from peer role models, signposting those at risk of suicide to appropriate services and finally, a social media curriculum designed by and for young people, are steps that should be encouraged.
All of this takes time and money, which does not fit the knee-jerk narrative amongst current proponents of regulation.
Mr Johns complained that Government reports are often shelved.
Did he take the time to read last year’s report, Addressing the Growth of Social Media and tackling Cyberbullying by the Joint Committee on Transport and Communications? – Yours, etc,
Co Dublin

Sir, – Colm O’Brien (“Cross on Carrauntoohil,” November 25th) says structures such as the cross on Carrauntoohil have no place on top of a mountain as they are out of place and a blot on the landscape. Mr O’Brien added that mountain tops are spiritual places.
As a mountain walker surely Mr O’Brien must be aware of the countless crosses and Mass Rocks that are in abundance on our mountains and glens which relate to the stories of the Penal days in Ireland when the celebration of the Catholic Mass was forbidden.
During the Penal times Catholic priests and worshipers had to find hidden areas in the Irish countryside to celebrate Mass. Many of these places were marked with Mass Rocks which was often a rock or cross taken from a church ruin and used as a place of worship. The areas where these Masses were held are still considered to be special sacred places.
As one who also spends much time walking in mountain areas, I don’t find these crosses offensive. They are part of our heritage. I am, however, often disgusted at the mountains of rubbish which litter our beautiful landscape, including our mountain tops. – Yours, etc, TOM COOPER, Templeogue, Dublin 6W. Sir, – The comments of Colm O’Brien (“Cross on Carrauntoohil,” November 25th) shows the reality of intolerance now prevalent in society.
While, I have no wish for a Catholic theocracy; what is so offensive about a structure which you can see only if your up close at it or through the viewing of binoculars? What next: a bill in the Dáil for the removal of all roadway Marian shrines; the Sacred Heart at the Parnell Monument or the Papal Crosses at Phoenix Park and Drogheda? Would Mr O’Brien welcome that? – Is mise, etc,
Co Tyrone.
Sir, – For the benefit of those who cut down the Carrauntohill cross and in order to preserve the religious heritage of both Christian and pagan sites such as the isolated beehive huts, the monastic settlements and their round towers, grottos and churches, Newgrange, dolmens and standing stone circles, they should be advised that being an Irish citizen does not compel you to genuflect every time you see a hot cross bun. – Yours, etc, EUGENE TANNAM, Firhouse, Dublin 24.

Irish Independent:

I firmly condemn thugs hijacking peaceful protests with their vindictive behaviour, as that is giving the Government an even bigger stick to beat us with.
However, having said that, I do feel the controversy surrounding the public’s rejection of the mere existence of Irish Water has this Government running around like ducks in thunder. Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly’s new changes in making payments for the service is nothing short of ridiculous. It is inconceivable for them to think that people will buy into this latest attempt to quell public anger about the entire setup surrounding Irish Water. Pray tell, what’s going to be achieved in having people pay €100 above the recommended costs, so that the Department of Social Protection would reimburse them the overpaid amount?
Who came up with this solution? Did any of the highly-paid advisers calculate the extra costs involved in this implausible and thoughtless proposal? As a nation we have been known in the past to pay gold nuggets to political monkeys. This is a continuation of those infamous and disastrous methods of doing business all over again. Has nothing been learned at the very top in this country? But, then again, it’s always easy to wilfully and recklessly spend somebody else’s money. This economy has been decimated by the selfishness of financial parasites and their cronies for far too long.
So we must stop this destruction of living standards now, by standing together against this attempted underhanded operation. It’s become a necessity to defend the only remaining emblems of our living standards. Let’s not forget that politicians have already claimed €24.4 million in expenses in three years.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny, isn’t it time for you and this Government to take a reality check as to whom you are working on behalf of? We’ll shortly be commemorating the sacrifice of our patriots who died for the overwhelming desire of freedom for the people of this country. Let’s be mindful that liberty and democracy are meant to stand side-by-side for the good of all people – and not just for the privileged class in society.
Mattie Greville, Killucan, Co Westmeath

Gender quotas are unfair
I agree 100pc with the views expressed by Desmond Fitzgerald on the article by Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald.
There is no evidence to suggest that artificially-created (through quotas) gender-balanced leadership results in better national governance in countries. This is not surprising, given that quotas are – by their nature – contrary to true equality of opportunity, which is not the same thing as equality of outcome. Also, it’s both ironic and instructive that Minister Fitzgerald is a senior member of a Government that last year got rid of a highly-talented woman who was one of its brightest stars of either sex (and one who, I understand, is opposed to gender quotas) because she showed genuine independence of mind and devotion to principle.
It seems that such qualities will not be welcome in the kind of female public representatives and office-holders that the Minister appears to have in mind when she calls for more women in public life and gender-balanced leadership.
Thankfully, though, when the next general election comes the Government and the various political parties cannot oblige electors to vote for their quota-filling candidates.
Hugh Gibney, Athboy, Co Meath

Hitting the right note
To offer some empathy and solidarity to FAI Chief Executive John Delaney, I would like to offer my apologies to anybody over the years who may have heard me singing Johnny Cash’s ‘Folsom Prison Blues’. I in no way advocate the senseless shooting of men in Reno just to watch them die.
I would also like to promise that from now on I will no longer sing ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’ by The Beatles or ‘I Shot the Sheriff’ by Bob Marley. To my wife: I have destroyed my Tom Jones’ records as I now appreciate the dangerous influence that the singing along to ‘Delilah’ might one day have on our relationship.
Darren Williams, Sandyford, Dublin 18

Helter skelter marriage laws
Charles Manson is allowed to get married in jail… yet there are so many men who cannot get a divorce in the real world. Strange indeed.
Robert Sullivan, Bantry, Co Cork

Our Lady of Guadalupe
The image of the Virgin Mary on a piece of 483-year-old cactus fabric in a Catholic church in Mexico City constantly baffles artists and scientists alike. Known worldwide as Our Lady of Guadalupe, its history goes back to 1531, when Mary appeared to a 50-year-old Indian named Juan Diego. The visions occurred five times, four to Juan and once to his sick uncle.
I would like to explain briefly just of the very many interesting aspects of this image. In 1979, the newest digital techniques were applied for the first time in investigating the image. After filtering and processing the digitised images of the eyes, an entire scene of about 10 people were present in both eyes. The scene appears to be Juan Diego, a bishop and other people present at the time of the apparition. Mary seems to have taken a picture of the scene with her eyes, which remained preserved forever in the moment she appeared on Juan Diego’s cloak.
The images in Mary’s eyes appeared in three different places. This three-fold reflection is caused by the curvature of the eyes’ corner. Two of the reflections were right-side up and one was upside down. This occurs only in living eyes. Also the photograph images in both eyes are not identical, but their refraction and proportions match perfectly, just as happens now in our eyes, in which there are two distinct but perfectly-matching ‘takes’ of the same scene.
The image of Mary looks like a painting, but who is painting it? The time is now ripe for a new transparent and independent scientific investigation into this image.
Declan Condren, Navan Road, Dublin

Facts about the bank guarantee
Many of the letters to your paper talk about a bank bailout that was forced upon us by the EU. This mistaken view suits many in Ireland, particularly Fianna Fail.
It was the Fianna Fail-led government in 2008 that issued the blanket bank guarantee which effectively put in place legislation that ensured most bondholder would get all their monies back. The letters from the ECB in 2010 refers to a tiny number of unsecured bond holders that would be protected during the bailout.
However, the vast majority of the bank bondholders got their money back because of the bank guarantee of 2008, which was nothing to do with the EU.
Eunan McNeill, Letterkenny, Co Donegal

Marriage made in political hell
Many recent pub conversations have included the remark that Fianna Fail and Fine Gael will have to join forces in order to retain some illusion of a popular government.
I am not sure how the idea of two highly-unpopular and incompetent parties joining forces might create some extra popularity, but such is the thinking in many democracies.
The idea appears to be gaining momentum, which would at least help to explain why there has been no opposition for the last 60 years and why we are heading downhill so fast. Sadly, it will not help our predicament.
Richard Barton, Tinahely, Co Wicklow
Irish Independenthreatened


November 26, 2014

26 November 2014 Vet

I still have arthritis in my left toe I am stricken with gout. But I manage to get to do the housework and take Fluff to the vet.

Mary’s back much better today, breakfast weight down nothing for tea and her tummy pain is still there.


Paul Vaughan – obituary

Paul Vaughan was the presenter of the BBC’s arts show Kaleidoscope whose velvety tones on serious programmes saw him hailed as ‘the first invisible star of television’

Paul Vaughan

Paul Vaughan

5:23PM GMT 25 Nov 2014


Paul Vaughan, who has died aged 89, became one of the most familiar voices on radio and television as presenter of the long-running arts magazine Kaleidoscope on Radio 4 and narrator of the television science flagship series Horizon on BBC Two.

Vaughan’s velvety tones made him, in the view of one critic, “the first invisible star of television”. He was also greatly in demand as a voice-over artist for television and radio commercials and trailers. “When God speaks,” observed another commentator, “he uses Paul Vaughan’s voice.”

Launched in April 1973, Kaleidoscope under Vaughan’s conductorship became emblematic of the Radio 4 soundscape of the day with its informed but informal tone of arts coverage. Originally broadcast live and late at night, in order to include first night reviews from the West End, the programme marked a change of pace from the stately progress of other arts shows: the opening week featured an interview with Joan Baez, studio discussions about quasars and Picasso, and music from Diana Ross.

Inevitably on a live, reactive programme, there would be glitches. Vaughan recalled the unavailing scramble to contact Stephen Spender in 1973 on the day W H Auden died and having to make do with a drunken Laurie Lee, who could manage only “a little grief-stricken sob” for the listeners before falling silent.

Vaughan’s voice sounded perfect on heavyweight programmes such as Horizon, possessing just the right degree of neutral authority that lent his commentary a kind of oracular power. He was also in constant demand for corporate presentations, voicing films and videos for staff training, promotions and for drumming up business.

For television and film commercials, his voice was used to sell a range of products and services from credit cards and toothpaste to building societies and disinfectant. Perhaps the most famous of the slogans he intoned was for a mobile phone company – between 1994 and 2008 it was Vaughan who assured us that: “The future’s bright — the future’s Orange”.

The younger of two brothers, Paul William Vaughan was born on October 24 1925 in Brixton, south London. His father, chief clerk in the counting house at the Greenwich Linoleum Company, became secretary of the Linoleum and Floorcloth Manufacturers’ Association, the industry’s trade body, a position that would eventually suggest the title for his second son’s first volume of memoirs, Something in Linoleum (1992). In 1934 Vaughan père moved his family to New Malden in Surrey and a house on the Kingston bypass.

Joan Baez, a guest on the first episode of Kaleidoscope (REX)

Young Paul immersed himself in the culture of suburbia (it became a lifelong fascination) and attended Raynes Park County School, where the flamboyant headmaster, John Garrett, became a major influence in his quest for self-improvement. Garrett knew W H Auden, persuaded him to write a school song, and hired the painter Claude Rogers to teach Art and the Marxist Rex Warner to teach Classics. Paul Vaughan’s fellow alumni included two other future Radio 4 broadcasters, Derek Cooper and Robert Robinson.

As a teenager, Vaughan became a talented amateur musician, playing first clarinet in the Worcester Park orchestra and later second clarinet in the Wimbledon Philharmonic (Colin Davis played first). He read French at Wadham College, Oxford, his studies being interrupted in 1944 by conscription into the Queen’s Royal Regiment. He returned to Oxford three years later to complete his degree.

In 1950 Vaughan joined Menley and James, pharmaceutical chemists, which occupied hangar-like premises on Coldharbour Lane, Camberwell, that had once been an ice-rink and before that had served as headquarters of the Edwardian theatre impresario Fred Karno. Among the firm’s products were Mother Siegel’s Syrup (for dyspepsia), Antidipso (for alcoholism) and Dethblo (for ringworm). As assistant export manager, Vaughan found himself with time on his hands, and after enrolling on a correspondence course for writers was amazed to have his first article, about Victorian toy theatres, accepted by The Lady magazine.

After five years at Menley and James, Vaughan was appointed an assistant public relations officer with the British Medical Association, then a conservative-minded body with an aversion to personal publicity for its members. Vaughan’s boss defined public relations as “the art of explaining away”; some of the doctors he encountered would joke about the term “PR” because it was medical shorthand for “per rectum”.

In such unpromising circumstances Vaughan again managed to scratch his scribbler’s itch, producing a short history of the BMA called Doctors’ Commons (1959).

In October 1958 Vaughan had made his broadcasting debut with a two-minute report on the BMA’s annual clinical meeting in a World Service radio programme called New Ideas. The experience finally persuaded him to strike out on a media career, and he resigned from the BMA, taught himself shorthand, joined the Press Club and the National Union of Journalists and decided to go freelance.

Laurie Lee: he gave a drunken soundbite to Vaughan (PA)

Filing stories about the state of British medicine to a thrice-weekly American magazine called Medical Tribune kept him afloat for six years. During the early 1960s he bought a portable tape recorder and supplemented his income with radio features for the Today programme on the BBC Home Service, and contributions to the World Service series Science and Industry, later renamed Science in Action. In 1969 he became a reporter for Radio 4’s innovative science series New Worlds, and covered Britain’s first heart transplant operation before moving across to the presenter’s chair.

From there, in 1973, Vaughan was invited to present Radio 4’s new arts and science magazine series Kaleidoscope. The science element was discarded after a year, and the programme became a fixture – in a variety of slots – for a quarter of a century until 1998, when a new network controller replaced it with Front Row.

In 1970, while working as deputy editor of a glossy monthly magazine called World Medicine, Vaughan was auditioned (along with Tony Benn, who had briefly been employed as a BBC World Service producer) to replace Christopher Chataway as narrator for BBC Two’s documentary science series Horizon. He remained the voice of the programme for 20 years.

Vaughan’s second book, a paperback guide to birth control for the Family Planning Association which, daringly for 1969, carried explicit anatomical drawings, was followed by The Pill on Trial (1970). Vaughan traced the story of how the contraceptive pill came to be developed, reviewed the evidence on its safety, and discussed its impact on sexual customs and on the growth of world population.

Vaughan was disappointed when the book failed to sell well. He admitted that another medical journalist may have had a point when he told him: “Women who aren’t on the pill don’t care. Women who are don’t want to know.”

Following the success of Something In Linoleum, Vaughan published a further volume of memoirs, called Exciting Times in the Accounts Department (1995).

Paul Vaughan married, in 1951, Barbara Prys-Jones. The marriage was dissolved, and in 1988 he married a BBC producer, Pippa Burston, who survives him, with their two sons and the two sons and two daughters of his first marriage.

Paul Vaughan, born October 24 1925, died November 14 2014


19.41 GMT

Rather than accusing Emily Thornberry of displaying the patronising attitude of the metropolitan elite towards the working class, is not Tristram’s Hunt’s education policy a better example (Private schools have done too little for too long, 25 November)? Our children, or in my case my future grandchildren, will benefit from being taught by their social betters, who will bring their “world-beating educational attributes” to our state schools. This reflects the ingrained prejudices of the metropolitan elite, who know that state education is markedly inferior to private education and that only by their constant interference will the state education system be dragged screaming and kicking into a better place. It is the mindset of a Michael Gove who sees the main obstacle to good state education as being the teachers with their anti-aspirational attitudes, naive child-friendly educationists, and never a lack of resources or the constant ill-informed micro-management of schools from whoever is the current education secretary.

What I find most offensive is Hunt’s total disregard of what is good in state schools. This is something I feel very strongly as I went to a secondary modern school (a school barred from entering students for the GCE exam, as it was thought an inappropriate education for the children of the manual classes), but thanks to the efforts of my aspirational teachers I got a place at a Russell Group university. A much simpler solution would be to treat the private schools as the businesses that they are, so ending their charitable status, which confers a virtual tax-free existence, and use the new tax revenue to fund a levelling-up of state schools.
Derrick Joad

• Tristram Hunt was himself privately educated, and yet he seems to be in blissful ignorance of what private schools are actually doing these days. Most private schools do this already, and not so that we can get away with tax relief. In York, we do it because the state sector cannot provide enough Latin teachers; we do it because we want to improve the experiences of all children in York; we do it because we have each come to trust our colleagues on the other side of the imaginary “Berlin Wall”. People work best together in education if the political climate encourages sincere and respectful dialogue, rather than pantomime caricatures and ominous threats. Should he ask nicely? Yes: because it works.
Leo Winkley (@LeoWinkley)
Headmaster, St Peter’s school, York

Tristram Hunt joins the list of those who wrongly imply that private education is a financial burden on the state and thus can be financially sanctioned in the cause of its social aspirations. In fact, whatever its social merits or demerits, private education is a substantial contributor to state finances.

The Treasury earns in excess of £4bn per year from the present system. This could be used to provide state bursaries to increase the number of private school places by more than 50%, contributing significantly to the social mobility we all support. Alternatively it could be used to increase spending on the 8 million state pupils by 25%, greatly improving the quality of state provision at a stroke.

The 500,000 or so pupils in private education save the state £800m in education costs per year (at £1,600 per head). Charitable status of these schools costs the state £100m. Even after taking £165m for business rate relief, the system is in credit to the tune of £535m. In addition, some £3.5bn will have already been levied in UK income and other taxes on the £7bn earned to pay for private education.

The oligarchs’ offspring (ie foreign students) account for less than 5% of the total of private students. They are not in any way a burden on us taxpayers but net contributors to our balance of payments.
Christopher Rance

• Tristram Hunt does not go nearly far enough in his efforts to breach the Berlin Wall between private and state education (Labour’s assault on private schools, 25 November). The removal of tax breaks and the requirement to share expertise and run joint programmes will do little to overcome the huge disparity in outcomes and opportunities for those educated in the different sectors.

In its efforts to create a fairer and more equal society, Finland, which has one of the highest-achieving education systems in the world, abolished private schools in the 60s. The effect has been to significantly narrow the attainment gap between rich and poor children.

Labour needs to be bolder than this if its commitment to social equity is to be believed. Watering down the status quo is no longer an option.
Fiona Carnie
European Forum for Freedom in Education

• “Labour’s assault on private schools”? The business rate relief claimed through “charitable status” is only a tiny part of the huge state subsidies – exemption from income tax; corporation tax; capital gains tax; VAT; stamp duty; donations and legacies. Parents also benefit from covenants and insurance policies and exemption from VAT on school fees. Generals and diplomats also receive hundreds of millions of pounds to send their children to private schools, all courtesy of the taxpayer.

Taking away one small part of the huge state subsidies to private schools is hardly an “assault”, and no doubt lawyers, consultants and lobbyists will strive might and main to evade it. To say that Mr Hunt has laboured mightily and brought forth a mouse would be extremely generous. Once again Labour politicians have quailed at the prospect of simply abolishing charitable status outright. This is the equivalent to an “assault” from one of Ken Dodd’s tickling sticks.
Richard Knights

• Parliament makes the laws. The courts interpret and enforce them. Right? Yet you report that “Labour had advocated depriving independent schools of charitable status if they did not meet a clear public benefit test, but a 2011 court case brought by the Independent Schools Council in effect closed that route”. Please tell me why parliament can’t pass a new law opening up that route.
Chris Birch

• Tristram Hunt’s call, that private schools should do more to help state pupils or lose £700m in tax breaks, is a welcome initiative. But it is puzzling that he said nothing about the principal cause of the often superior performance of private schools. His mantra should be “class size, class size, class size”.

The HMC school website claims that “HMC independent schools have some of the lowest student-staff ratios in UK schools, one teacher for every 9 pupils compared with one teacher for every 22 pupils in the state sector. Significantly smaller class sizes are proven to improve academic achievement as the ability to spend more time with each child allows teachers to get to know their personal strengths, weaknesses and learning styles, ensuring that their individual needs are met.”

There you have it. Come on, Tristram, address the real issue!
Neil Holmes
Bromsgrove, Worcestershire

• I can’t believe that, in a time of austerity, we have been handing over millions in tax breaks to private schools.
Alex Hallatt (@arcticcircle)
Frome, Somerset

• Labour should go much further and utilise this private sector accommodation for children in care. Few places are already set up to facilitate children on such a scale.
Vaughan Thomas

• I would be embarrassed for Tristram Hunt if he really believed that the Labour proposals he sketches out would significantly affect what he recognises as the “corrosive divide of privilege”. They won’t, and he must know that.
Michael Sheldon

• It’s all very well for Labour to tinker with private schools, but whatever they do short of abolishing them altogether, they will re-create themselves in other forms. Private education is a necessary institution in the replication of the dominant elite. Through a specious narrative of being better than their state counterparts, they guarantee the passage of the elite’s children into the next generation. This cultural self-accreditation is pernicious, and Labour should finally resolve to tackle it head-on.

But don’t hold your breath. At least half of the shadow cabinet is part of this very same elite.
Tim Gay
Barnstaple, Devon

• A voice from the wilderness at last. “The division between state and private education damages our society, stifles opportunity and, by wasting talent, inflicts damage upon our economy,” writes Tristram Hunt. Wow! What insight. So what’s the action he suggests? “We will encourage [encourage?] each institution to reflect the skills, traditions and educational needs of their locality”. How clueless can you be? Has he looked around and seen where Harrow, Eton, Westminster and the rest are located? Get on your bike, Mr Hunt, and go and experience where the unequal quality of opportunity is driven in to the heart of struggling – but proud – local working-class communities. You will need to do much better than that

If words can be followed by more thoughtful action, we may, at last, be on to something. But I do not hold my breath.
Leon Winston
(Chair of governors at an academy school), Shaldon, Devon

• It is good that Tristram Hunt does not support the bursary approach, which allows public schools to cream off a token handful of the state sector’s best pupils. However. the continued existence of an education system where the rich and powerful have little or no interest in, or knowledge of, the state sector in which 0ver 90% of us are educated is a disgrace. Public schools do not just reinforce class barriers, they actively create them, and deserve no state encouragement at all. Forget business rates – a Labour government should put an end to the laughable concept of charity that benefits only the very best off in society, and the Charities Act 2011 should be amended accordingly. A commitment to universal access to a world-class education system – now that would be something.
Paul Jeremy

Obama Discusses His Immigration Plan At Visit To Las Vegas High School Barack Obama speaks about his executive action on US immigration policy, 21 November 2014. Photograph: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Israel’s increasing insistence that it should be defined as a Jewish state (Report, 24 November) has serious and unforeseen consequences for world Jewry as well as for the 20% of its citizens who are not Jewish and will therefore see more of their rights eroded. The more stridently Israel proclaims its Jewishness, the less it can complain when its illegal and inhuman actions, in Gaza and elsewhere, are described by outsiders as Jewish actions, tarring Jews everywhere with the same brush, and increasing rather than reducing the likelihood of antisemitism. Is this really what Israel wants?
Karl Sabbagh
Author, Palestine: A Personal History

• With Obama firing on all cylinders with executive action (Report, 22 November), how long must we wait for the US to recognise the state of Palestine?
Benedict Birnberg

• Bhasker Bhadresha writes (Letters, 25 November), “In the 60s, 70s and 80s ‘Paki-bashing’ was a common pastime among white people”. That is so absurd a statement as to merit the word “fantasy”. I write as someone who participated in anti-fascist demonstrations in each of those decades, along with many other white people.
Dr Harry Harmer
Eastbourne, East Sussex

• Re Owen Jones’s comment that “toddlers have been repeatedly observed attempting to help struggling adults without being prompted” (24 November). Severely disabled, I use a stick. Walking in the garden with my four-year-old neighbour, she asked me “shall I hold your stick?” Not quite there practically, but her altruism and desire to help were very clear.
Michael Somerton

• Christina Wakeford (Letters, 25 November) may have started some hares running. I remember how Professor JL Austin wrote about starting hares by splitting them. Not such a pleasant image as her Pilates teacher brought to mind.
Richard Fortin
Hooksway, West Sussex

Prison Officer locking a gate ‘I can assure you, for those on the receiving end, it certainly felt like an increase in the total amount of violence,’ Nick Hardwick says of HMP Elmley. Photograph: Mark Harvey/Alamy

Guardian headline writers can answer for themselves, but Professor Baigent and Dr Osman (Letters, 24 November) are absolutely wrong to imply our inspection report into HMP Elmley that you reported on 12 November “over-hyped” the level of violence.

It is not possible to exactly assess levels of violence in a prison in the way they want because it depends both on what prisoners report and on what the prison itself records. Neither tells the full story. We come to our judgments based not just on the official data, but also on what prisoners themselves tell us and what we ourselves observe.

Your correspondents refer to just the summary of our report. If they read the report as a whole they would see that recorded incidents indicated that there were 60% more fights and assaults in April 2014 than there had been in April 2013 and that reflected a steadily rising trend. The number of serious incidents had increased sharply over the same period; incidents of concerted indiscipline had increased; incidents of self-harm and suicide had become more frequent; 92 prisoners had self-harmed in the six months before the inspection; and there had been five self-inflicted deaths since the previous inspection.

We compared that data with what prisoners told us. In a representative survey, 56% of prisoners told us they had felt unsafe at some time in the prison and 25% said they felt unsafe at the time of the inspection; 44% said they had been victimised by other prisoners. This compared with 39%, 14% and 23% respectively at the last inspection. When we spoke to prisoners and staff individually, they said the same. Inspectors witnessed vulnerable prisoners being harassed without staff intervention. I can assure you, for those on the receiving end, it certainly felt like an increase in the total amount of violence.

On the basis of that combined evidence, we concluded that “there was a rising level of violence and the number of serious incidents had increased sharply”. It was a sound judgment and the recommendations we made as a result need to be acted on.
Nick Hardwick
HM chief inspector of prisons

Ludwig Wittgenstein, philosopher The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, who worked at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary during the second world war. Photograph: Hulton Getty

“Geordies like to talk … allow at least 10 minutes just to buy a newspaper,” advises Harry Pearson (The UK’s best city: in praise of Newcastle upon Tyne,, 22 November). Wittgenstein worked as a lab assistant in Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary during the war. His Jesmond landlady said he was chatty in the morning, to the annoyance of the other lodgers, but morose in the evenings. From the poem “Geordie Henderson replies to the biographer of Ludwig Wittgenstein” (Mugs Rite, Bay Press, 1996), by the recently late poet, eccentric and bibliophile Mike Wilkin: “Div aa knaa oot more / aboot him? Fella, arl else / aa remember, is that / the only gala time / aa got im near a pint, / knaaing he was a Delphi / Oracle, aa askt him / if the Magpies would ever / climb back to the Shangri-La / of Division One. And he wrote / doon arl magisterially / on a raggy beer mat / (which is clagged-up / in wor netty yet!) / “Whereof one cannot spowt / Thereof one must say nowt.”
Joan Hewitt (@TurkishBathsNCL)

Modi has his blind spots

Since Narendra Modi is one of the most powerful Indian prime ministers to have emerged in recent years, and with his visit to the UK in 2015 having just been announced, it was with a sense of incredulity that I read of his apparent belief in the scientific achievements of ancient Hindu peoples (7 November). Using Lord Ganesha’s elephant head as an early example of plastic surgery and Karma’s birth “outside his mother’s womb” as evidence of reproductive genetics are extraordinary enough, but as part of his speech to a gathering of doctors and other professionals it simply beggars belief. Beyond this, doesn’t it also imply that the gods of the Mahabharata were somehow the works of man?

This Hindu nationalist clearly has his blind spots, as is becoming more evident in his dangerous exclusion of Muslims from decision-making in government. We in the west should take care about becoming too close to Modi and the lucrative trade deals he so temptingly offers.
Lesley Hampshire
Shanklin, UK

What are the EU’s options?

Federica Mogherini, the EU’s new foreign policy chief, has expressed doubts about the effectiveness of economic and financial sanctions on Vladimir Putin’s behaviour (7 November). So then what are the EU’s options to counter Russia’s aggression against Ukraine?

A) Do nothing, be nice to Russia and hope that Putin comes to his senses;

B) Impose limited sanctions against individuals in Putin’s inner circle, and escalate them to companies and business sectors;

C) Supply Ukraine with lethal and non-lethal military aid to help Kiev beat back the terrorist thugs;

D) Send in Nato troops and air power.

Well, we know that option A had no effect on the Russian invasion of the Crimea; meanwhile Russia continues to support the Donbass rebels even though the EU has already made concessions to Russia on implementation of its accord with Ukraine. We also know that option D is basically a non-starter. And so if option B is not doing the job, that must mean, and one can only hope, that Mogherini is seriously considering option C.
Morris Ilyniak
Toronto, Canada

Building cyberpeace

If Nato is on frontline of cyberwar (7 November), who is building cyberpeace? The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) – known for its unarmed mission in Ukraine – has almost twice as many member states as Nato, including both the US and Russia. For more than a year the OSCE has been developing cyber-security confidence-building measures to de-escalate cyber-conflicts. This contrasts with Nato’s new Enhanced Cyber-Defence Policy, which includes retaliatory action under the common defence principle.

Europeans should work toward a world where security is something that we all share, and not something we seek for ourselves at the expense of others.
Andrew Lane
Quaker Council for European Affairs
Brussels, Belgium

The age of loneliness

George Monbiot hits the nail on the head in his column Dehumanising people requires euphemism (31 October). Nineteen Eighty-Four has been absorbed into the fabric of our society with very few of us even noticing. Working in personnel consultancy in the late 1970s, a few of us were even then resisting the use of the term human resource management but it seems in vain.

Since then, the commodification of natural assets, including people, has continued apace. A further aspect is the use by the military of such terms as collateral damage to justify the accidental slaughter of innocent civilians in their inhumane quest to eliminate every potential enemy or latent threat with the use of disproportionate – and increasingly remotely controlled – weapons of personnel destruction. We are distanced from the consequences of our actions not simply by weasel language, but by robotics.

Newspeak is now the accepted official language of politicians, the military and business leaders alike. Margaret Thatcher infamously claimed that there is no such thing as society. Her followers have adopted the same mentality in their unspoken attempt to ensure that her pronouncement becomes truth. The media is complicit in its language, as well as its evident desire to bring about this very outcome.

What can we do to counter this progressive assault on common human values? I shall continue to heckle those who promote the devaluation of human culture and our natural inheritance, but however many of us do so, on its own this can scarcely be sufficient. It must become an essential component of our educational curriculum to question the use of demeaning and immoral language by our leaders.
Noel Bird
Boreen Point, Queensland, Australia

• George Monbiot writes that our present age of loneliness has left us bereft of love, and that “there is no such thing as society, only heroic individualism”. The word “heroic” is perhaps unfortunate; the term “selfish individualism” is perhaps a better fit, because the “great deed” of real heroes, says Joseph Campbell, is not to achieve money and fame, but to discover “unity in multiplicity and then to make it known”, thereby helping to amend what Monbiot calls our “social isolation”.
Richard Orlando
Westmount, Quebec, Canada

• George Monbiot’s article about the social needs of humans is well taken. However, he clearly didn’t do well in biology class. Stating that we humans have a lot in common with bees when it comes to socialisation is really not a good analogy.

First off, not all bees are social; some live solitary lives, such as the carpenter bee, which is perfectly happy to bore holes in people’s porches and not be bothered with community activities. Moreover, honeybees, which live in hives, have a social order more like that of the Hindu caste system or the early Hawaiian kapu system: not, I think, what Monbiot had in mind for 21st‑century humans.

Otherwise, his article was a valuable discussion of what is missing in modern life: ie, a sense of community beyond ourselves and our families.
Leonard A Cohen
Northampton, Massachusetts, US

• George Monbiot is the new George Orwell. Just as Orwell slated the political hacks of his time for masking the inhumane acts of his time in cloudy euphemisms, so Monbiot fearlessly calls the corporate and military hierarchies of the world to task for reducing their underlings and victims to landfill by the use of inhuman abstractions. Strange how our commanders manage to see themselves as above and separate from the “biomass”. The mangling of language makes it easier to defend the indefensible.

Orwell was able to distance himself from “the squalid farce of leftwing politics” (his words) without ever aligning himself with the right, which has so enthusiastically, and for the most part ignorantly, taken him up as a mascot since his death. It is my hope that our George, having transcended the brutal standards of the class in which he was raised, does not fall into the double standards of the self-deluding left.
Frederick R Hill
Eschol Park, NSW, Australia


• Oliver Burkeman’s column (14 November) on FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out, recalls what is said to be a national characteristic of Singaporeans: kiasu, or fear of losing (out). I have had students boasting of this rather negative trait, which has made Singapore tour groups in China and the antipodes very unpopular when it takes the form of piling buffet plates high with food, much of which is left unconsumed. Perhaps the promotion of Burkeman’s life-changing JOMO, or Joy of Missing Out, is the solution?
Alaisdair Raynham
Truro, UK

• The News in brief item on the Royal Mail recruiting for Christmas post (24 October) took me back to those days 50 years ago when it was the norm to have lads doing the rounds: trudge through snow and slush with the khaki shoulder bag, but the occasional perk, a tip and even a sherry on the doorstep. And our first-ever pay packet.
E Slack
L’Isle Jourdain, France

• The 10 million stateless people mentioned by the UN refugee agency (14 November) could be deemed citizens of the world and issued with a United Nations international passport. Possession of such a passport would give them automatic priority when emigrating and seeking residence in any nation.
Henry Collins
Cronulla, NSW, Australia

• In your 7 November issue, you state that The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) is “part of the UN”. As a former IOM staff member, I can confirm that it is not, and never has been, part of the UN system. For the record, it was founded specifically to carry out certain activities not open to UN bodies.
David Stieber
Coppet, Switzerland



Sir, It is a sine qua non that we British resolve our disputes through combat (“Shocking cost of divorce for children”, Nov 24). Criminal matters may be best served by trial by jury but, as a family therapist and mediator, I submit that family law needs a major overhaul.

For most people the law is expensive, time-consuming and, crucially, damaging to children.

Couples who try mediation before they go to court find that it helps them to compromise, and to put the needs of their children over their own need to win. Those who don’t are often caught in a legal whirlpool with lawyers who believe that experts and evidence can persuade a judge that “who is right” can be adjudicated successfully. It is hardly surprising that children suffer collateral damage.

In court, I meet many lawyers who want to do what is right for families but I also see those who simply want to win — and who appear to have little idea of the impact their conduct and actions have upon children.

A debate is overdue. Let’s start with an investigation into the effect of divorce upon children in a range of other jurisdictions.
PRW Richardson
Welwyn Garden City, Herts

Sir, Your report mentions that the effect of divorce is of growing concern to schools. Aged 11, my form master approached me with “I hear you’ve had upsetting news at home, young sir. From what I know of you, you are manly enough to work through it. But if ever you need help, I’m here.” No more was said about it for the remaining seven years of our excellent relationship, apart from quizzical glances and reassuring nods and winks. Admittedly I have no alternative outcome against which to measure the benefit that I gained from this good man, but the conclusions of the survey commissioned by Resolution — having to report such negativity and alarm, connecting divorce so directly with bad behaviour and impaired education when decent human nature should be able to cope with the challenge — is a disappointing commentary.
Keith Robinson
Littlewick Green, Berks

Sir, Mental health clinicians can help families to recognise and minimise the effect on children, and they assisted many families from all parts of society until legal aid was removed for divorce. Now, we only help those who can afford to fund themselves. This study shows that the cost to children far outweighs the cost of providing legal aid for all.
Dr Judith Freedman
Consortium of Expert Witnesses to the Family Courts

Sir, The conclusions of the Resolution survey are based on answers to closed questions given by just 500 children, and not on large-scale demographic data. No inquiries I have made have turned up any conclusive data on the oft-made link between educational attainment and divorce. Laying the blame for society’s ills at the door of divorce is dangerous and retrogressive and small-scale surveys such as this, even if commissioned in good faith, may lead to further demonising of
one-parent families.
Dr Diane Bebbington
London SW19

Sir, It is sad that research is only now showing the impact that divorce has on children. My brother and I were permanently affected by the gruelling and acrimonious divorce of our parents in 1963. Our education suffered with poor exam results, our ability to trust was damaged and the course of our lives redirected. Divorce is a course of action that should be discouraged, never made easy.
Jennifer Latham
Wedmore, Somerset

Sir, Disputes between parents should be resolved swiftly to minimise the impact on everyone directly affected by a divorce. Court should be the last resort. Reforms introduced in April mean that both parties must attend a mediation intake assessment meeting before being able to issue court proceedings. Contact and residence orders have also been replaced with child arrangement orders; this change in terminology is designed to guide parents to think about their children rather than concerning themselves with unhelpful labels such as who has “residence”.
Stuart Ruff
Thomas Eggar LLP, Chichester

Sir, If John Betjeman would have approved of HS2’s termination at St Pancras (letter, Nov 24), then he would have bridled at Philip Hardwick’s monumental entrance to Euston being dubbed an “arch”.
Euston’s Greek Revival entrance was a Doric propylaeum.
Professor Emeritus A Peter Fawcett

Sir, You give EUOUAE (Scrabble leading article, Nov 24) as “a cry of Bacchic frenzy”. EUOUAE is not a word; it is an abbreviation, found in Gregorian chant books, and reduced to the salient vowels, of “saeculorum, Amen”, the last words of the doxology, “for ever and ever, Amen”. It indicates to the singer which psalm tone is being used.

I will now always think of pious religious communities in orgiastic frenzy under pretext of praising the Almighty.
Father David Sillince

Sir, It seems that we patients must respect the status of doctors (“Chummy young doctors”, Nov 24), even those young enough to be our grandchildren, by refraining from addressing them by their first names. But what about the other way round?

For the past 20 years I have been called Kathryn, or luvvie or darling or sweetheart, or whatever takes their fancy. It’s unacceptable — but it is a losing battle. My health, however, would be improved by old-fashioned respect.
Kathryn Dobson

Sir, My late husband, a surgeon, liked to quote, “Never make friends of your patients or patients of your friends”.
Elan Griffith

Sir, Mr Hatton (letter, Nov 25) seems a little hard on his doctor. Our doctors here in Fressingfield are quite decent chaps.
Peter Demetriadi
Wingfield, Suffolk

Sir, Alastair Lack’s assertion (letter, Nov 21) that avoidable post-operative complications are the fault of nursing staff is puzzling. Surely a surgeon does not absolve responsibility of the patient once the “last stitch is in”. As a registered nurse, I feel that his statement is a disservice to the individuals in health teams (including physios, nurses and, yes, doctors), who strive so diligently to ensure that their patients recover safely.
Victoria Burch
Kings Newton, Derbyshire

Sir, Mick Hume (Thunderer, Nov 24) stayed just shy of explicitly endorsing Ched Evans being allowed to train with Sheffield United after his release from prison for rape. But his condemnation of the media’s “obsession” with “what footballing folk say” is an attempt to diminish a serious issue.

It is not a sign of “obsession” when a furore erupts over a person in a position of power who says or does something despicable; nor is it “ridiculous” when the chairman of Wigan Athletic is threatened with being “hounded out” for allegedly using antisemitic language.

Most importantly, however, these incidents are not a result of “attempting to dribble through moral minefields”. We have every right to expect human decency from those who have immense financial and cultural power.
Eleanor Cassidy
London W4


Letters: Boris should take a leaf out of Amsterdam’s book

Learning from Amsterdam’s drugs policies; living beyond our means; sexism in the police force; and getting fed up of EU rules and regulations

Gone to pot: a 17th-century Chinese meerschaum hashish pipe in a Dutch collection

Gone to pot: a 17th-century Chinese meerschaum hashish pipe in a Dutch collection Photo: Jeff Rotman / Alamy

7:00AM GMT 25 Nov 2014


SIR – Boris Johnson recently dismissed the “progressive” approach to drugs by countries such as the Netherlands as outdated. He said parts of Amsterdam city centre are “sleazy”, and went on to praise the war on drugs that conservatives have been waging in Britain and America.

First, the sleaziness he is referring to is overwhelmingly caused by groups of drunken English bachelor parties dressed up in mankinis in the red light district.

Secondly, the war on drugs, of which Mr Johnson is so proud, has led to wide racial disparities in arrests, prosecutions, sentencing and deaths. Black Americans are sent to state prisons for drug offences 13 times more often than other races, even though they only comprise 13 per cent of regular drug users.

The drugs war in Britain has cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of pounds, with no effect on the level of drug use. Most Brits believe the decades-long campaign by law enforcement agencies against the global narcotics trade can never be won. Nick Clegg has publicly said it is “unwinnable”.

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, recently came under fire for trying to bury two critical drug reports in which scientists concluded that British politicians can learn from experiences and policies in countries such as the Netherlands.

Amsterdam has always been a bastion of tolerance and freedom, with room for everyone to be whoever they want to be. There are some rough edges here and there, but that is not something Amsterdam is ashamed of. I would rather live in a city with this reputation than one known for its increasing disparity between rich and poor.

Coen Pustjens
Amsterdam, The Netherlands

It’s not just immigration that is the threat, but Britain’s rising annual deficit

SIR – Debate continues on immigration, the health service, education and welfare, but no one in a position of influence seems to have quite pulled it all together yet.

The fact is that even after four years of Coalition government “austerity”, we are this year spending about £100,000,000,000 more than we earn. If my helpful letter from HM Revenue and Customs is to be believed, we are spending it mostly on health, education and welfare, the very services whose costs relate in large measure to the numbers of people using them. In other words, even those of us paying our full whack of direct and indirect taxes are, by providing these services, living beyond our means. And the cost of these services continues to rise. Of course it does as, under our present polity, our population inexorably increases.

So it matters not if new arrivals pay their taxes, are “hard working” or willing to take on jobs that others already here won’t do, because their numbers alone make our existing problems more acute. This is not necessarily an argument for turning off the immigration tap, but it is one for looking at the problem in its entirety.

We cannot go on spending, taxing and increasing our numbers at the levels we do. The political party (or coalition) that grasps this nettle and tells the electorate in coherent terms what it wants to do about it and then gets on and does it, would at least have earned a cross on the ballot paper.

Stephen Wikner
Pinner, Middlesex

SIR – Michael Howard made immigration one of the key planks of the Conservatives’ 2005 general election campaign. They lost.

Hugh Payne
Hitchin, Hertfordshire

SIR – The disillusionment with our present system of government, manifested by the increasing popularity of Ukip, is not difficult to explain.

Over the past 20 years our politicians have failed to regulate the banks, which is the primary cause of our present financial difficulties.

They failed to control immigration, to the extent that many of our cities have changed out of all recognition.

They led us into a disastrous war in Iraq, on false premises.

They failed to maintain our power-generation, so that we now have to import electricity from other countries.

They dumbed down our education system, so that we no longer produce enough young people with appropriate qualifications for our modern industries.

They failed to build enough houses to accommodate our growing population.

They led us into ever-closer union with Europe, without consultation.

Is it a surprise that ordinary people are looking for a change?

John Russ
Ware, Hertfordshire

SIR – David Cameron is determined. Determined to win back the Rochester and Strood constituency; determined to claw back sovereign powers from Brussels; determined to deal with immigration.

It’s a pity that he cannot convert that determination into concrete results.

Sandy Pratt
Dormansland, Surrey

SIR – In March 1962, as a young reporter, I stood inside the Orpington council chamber some time after midnight and heard the Liberal by-election victor Eric Lubbock cry: “If we can win here, we can win anywhere!” This might sound familiar to Nigel Farage.

The now Lord Avebury lost the seat in 1970. It has remained Tory ever since.

Peter Willoughby
Tonbridge, Kent

SIR – The last time I pulled up at the traffic lights next to a white van the driver was listening to Allegri’s Miserere.

Anne Weizmann
Caversham, Berkshire

Uneven airport tax

SIR – English airports make valuable contributions to the regions we serve, providing connections for local economies, supporting jobs, driving inward investment and promoting inbound tourism.

Continued calls for devolving the rate of Air Passenger Duty to both Scotland and Wales risk distorting the UK-wide level playing field on which we currently operate. This would jeopardise up to £1.2 billion in output and more than 2,500 jobs in the North East and South West of England alone over the next decade, according to economic impact assessments carried out by the air transport consultants, York Aviation.

David Cameron, the morning after the Scottish referendum, stated a wish for a settlement “fair to people in Scotland and, importantly, to everyone in England, Wales and Northern Ireland as well”.

Advocates for devolving Air Passenger Duty who point to economic benefits do not mention that these would come at the expense of neighbouring English regions.

We urge all parties to rule out the devolution of Air Passenger Duty. It is a tax that should be reformed UK-wide.

Paul Kehoe
CEO, Birmingham Airport

Robert Sinclair
CEO, Bristol Airport

David Laws
CEO, Newcastle International Airport

Papal plot

SIR – Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor would like to dispel any misunderstanding arising from Austen Ivereigh’s book on Pope Francis. He would like to make it clear that no approach to the then Cardinal Bergoglio in the days before the Conclave was made by him or, as far as he knows, by any other cardinal to seek his assent to becoming a candidate for the papacy.

What occurred during the Conclave, which did not include Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor because he was over 80, is bound by secrecy.

Maggie Doherty
Press Secretary to Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor
London SW1

Police confessions

Ken German recalled life as a bobby in Confessions of a Copper. Photo: Channel 4

SIR – Tom Rowley wondered what the interviewees would make of Channel 4’s “one-sided” Confessions of a Copper. I took part in what I believed to be a documentary on social change in the police. I am proud of serving for 32 years in the Bedfordshire police force. In my interview I described many positive aspects of the integration of women officers, but this was edited out.

Police in the Seventies were indeed sexist and racist, but that reflected British society. After two high-profile cases, they made efforts to change. I was responsible for training my force in community and race relations. Most were professional enough to accept the need for change, even if they objected to being branded as racists.

The old-time coppers featured in this programme were not representative of the honest, hard-working ones I served with.

Carole Phillips
Retired Police Superintendent
Newton Abbot, Devon

Benefits of volunteering

SIR – Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, is right to encourage volunteering. Giving time to our communities not only helps others, it also enriches and expands the life of the volunteer, increasing productivity, health and wellbeing.

I see volunteering as part of the work of the City of London. Giving something back keeps us mindful that we are all part of the same community and that every City person needs to be a citizen.

Alan Yarrow
Lord Mayor, City of London
London EC4

Give Gandhi a statue, despite Indian partition

SIR – Damien McCrystal argues that Gandhi’s insensitivity to Muslims led to India’s partition.

Muslims have done far better in Hindu-dominated, secular India than any non-Muslim minority has in Muslim-dominated Pakistan. Muslims have led India’s armed forces, been the chief justice of the Supreme Court and excelled as artists and film stars. India has had two Muslim presidents since independence in 1947.

Arvind Singh

SIR – The statue of Gandhi in Tavistock Square is perfectly good. Parliament Square is getting rather crowded.

Jeremy M J Havard
London SW3

SIR – What is our world coming to if we cannot celebrate a man who demonstrated the power of peaceful protest on the grounds that it might provoke terrorists?

Alan Shaw
Halifax, West Yorkshire

Slice of life

SIR – My wife asked the Waitrose bakery section to slice her seeded loaf. This is no longer allowed because of the risk to those with food allergies.

Dr Paul Turnbull

Alverstoke, Hampshire

Iron hand in glove

Beware of the Marigold. Photo: Alamy

SIR – Brussels wants to interfere with our rubber gloves (report, November 24). I am unaware of injuries caused by Marigolds.

During the German occupation of Guernsey it was verboten to cycle two abreast. There is something very weird about the European pysche.

Lady Coward
Torpoint, Cornwall

Princely formula

SIR – Prince Harry addresses the racing driver Lewis Hamilton as “mate”.

How should Mr Hamilton reply?

Professor Ged Martin
Youghal, Co Cork, Ireland

Irish Times:

Sir, – Frequently on top of Carrauntoohil I pondered on its cross. I assume those who erected it were honouring God, but were, ironically, altering the mountain they believed God created.

It was not a pretty cross but it was iconic.

Knocking it was an act of absolute vandalism, an extreme form of censorship and an affront to the efforts and beliefs of those who – with good intention – erected it.

When I next stand beside it – re-erected – I will be happy to see it as a noble symbol, standing against an extreme absolutism. How ironic is that? – Yours, etc, GERRY CHRISTIE, Tralee, Co Kerry. A dhuine usail, – Would Colm O’Brien (Letters, November 25th) be intolerant of structures on the Rock of Cashel or Croagh Patrick too, or even Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro? – Is Mise, BARRY O’CONNOR, Cannonstown, Newbridge, Co Kildare.

Sir, – Dr Eilís Ward and Dr Gillian Wylie boldly state in their letter (Letters, November 25th) that “the Swedish model doesn’t work” and as evidence say that there are still indications of some trafficking in Sweden.

There may well be some truth in that but there are plenty of other sources that show that Swedish laws have made a significant difference to reducing both trafficking and prostitution in that country.

Writing in the New Statesman in the past week, Rachel Moran reports that comparative official figures between Denmark and Sweden show much higher rates of both in Denmark.

Some will argue that just because the Swedish model does not solve all problems it should not be implemented. The alternative is to maintain the status quo.

The German magazine Der Spiegel reported last year that there are about 400,000 women involved in prostitution in Germany but only 44 of them are officially registered with the authorities, as German law allows.

To base a law on the minority “who don’t see themselves as victims”, is to leave the vast majority exposed to exploitation. Germany’s laws are, as Der Spiegel pointed out, are now being viewed as a pimp’s charter.

The Swedish model is not perfect but it is far and away the best proposal on offer. – Yours, etc, KIERAN McGRATH, Child Welfare Consultant, Kilmainham, Dublin 8

A chara, – Kathy Sheridan’s article (“Telling the grim truth about prostitution”, Opinion & Analysis, November 19th) was a welcome contribution to the ongoing debate about the situation of prostitution in Ireland, a discussion which has regrettably been dominated by distorted representations of the reality.

Ms Sheridan highlights certain myths which are central to the pro-sex work argument, including the “boys will be boys” justification, and the question of women freely choosing to enter prostitution.

These myths are perpetuated within an overall framework of denial.

We are in denial about the pervasiveness of patriarchy and its impact on our society. We are in denial about the clear links between gender inequality, the relentless commodification of female sexuality in our culture, and the demand for commercial sex; we are also in denial about the exploitative nature of prostitution which supplies this demand.

Prostitution is a symptom of gender inequality in this country, with women from economically-marginalised backgrounds making up the majority of those who are affected.

It is no coincidence that the Nordic countries are consistently ranked among the most equal societies in the world in terms of gender.

It is essential that we understand prostitution in the wider context of gender attitudes in our country, and challenge the denial that perpetuates the “happy hooker” image that pro-sex work advocates would have us believe is the norm; in reality, it simply doesn’t come close to the grim truth about prostitution. – Yours, etc, RUTH KILCULLEN, APT (Act to Prevent Trafficking), St Mary’s, Bloomfield Avenue, Dublin 4.

A chara, – While John A Murphy’s contribution (Letters, November 24th) to the discussion on how best to commemorate the centenary of 1916 is welcome, it seems he is rather missing the point.

Yes, Pádraig Mac Piarais did use the English version of his name when signing the proclamation as did four of the other six signatories, and yes, it is also true that no Irish language version of the proclamation was issued during the Rising.

Conradh na Gaeilge’s criticism of the lack of recognition for Irish in the Government’s plans for the centenary is, however, based on the well-documented interest many of the leaders in 1916 showed in our national language prior to the Rising.

The role Irish and Conradh na Gaeilge played in motivating them to ask questions about the condition of Ireland, better understand our heritage, imagine the Ireland they wanted to construct for the future, and in giving them the confidence to think outside the colonial box has often been the subject of academic debate, and will hopefully be the subject of much public discussion in the run up to the centenary.

We will certainly be doing our utmost to stimulate this discussion, and trust the Government will grant our language the central role in the commemorations it undoubtedly deserves. – Is mise, CÓILÍN Ó CEARBHAILL, Uachtaráin, Conradh na Gaeilge, 6 Sráid Fhearchair, Baile Átha Cliath 2.

Wed, Nov 26, 2014, 01:06

First published: Wed, Nov 26, 2014, 01:06

A chara, – You published two thought-provoking articles relating to violence in Ireland. Jennifer O’Connell (“Bill Cosby story highlights troubling societal attitudes to consent,” November 24th) wrote about the issue of rape and consent; Úna Mullally wrote about men as hidden victims of violence (Opinion, November 24th).

Census 2011 reported that in 2008, 81.8 per cent of homicide victims were men; 79.9 per cent of serious assault victims were men; 88.1 per cent sexual assault victims were women.

The UN estimates that deaths resulting from intentional homicide amounted to a total of 437,000 in 2012. Every one of these crimes is abhorrent.

On the same day, another story, too late for your print edition, sounds a jarring note for me: Katie Taylor’s fifth world boxing title.

All the reaction I have heard so far is universal acclaim. It is generally seen, it seems by most, as an outstanding achievement. What I say will be, I am sure, an unpopular minority view, but I know I am not alone, and it should have some voice.

The idea of two human beings, men or women, physically beating one another for sport – I find this abhorrent. Yes, they undertake it voluntarily, but I still find it abhorrent.

The fact that the participants wear protective gear and that the referee can intervene alleviates harmful results, but it does not change the essential picture.

People may say that it is not the intention to inflict harm; but then I hear a commentator on radio speak admiringly of a blow to the head given by Katie Taylor to Yana Allekseevna in the third round. It is perhaps the nearest thing we have today to the gladiatorial contests of the past.

We may admire the skill and prowess and dedication of Katie Taylor, but it is misdirected.

President Michael D Higgins offered his congratulations: “All of us are so proud of her.” Not all.

I realise many will see my opinion as ungracious, but I hope for the day when all such “sports” are found unacceptable, although it probably will not happen in my lifetime. Amid all the acclaim for Katie Taylor’s achievement, perhaps you would also allow some space for whatever minority of your readers who may wish to have a contrary opinion expressed. – Is mise, etc, PÁDRAIG McCARTHY, Sandyford, Dublin 16.

Sir, – I concur with the remarks of Mr McQuaid’s letter in yesterday’s Irish Times. I have just ceased my friends’ membership of Wexford Fetival Opera after 37 years.

My memories of the 100-plus performances attended in the old and more recently in the new opera house are most positive.

However, while it is beautifully appointed, giving the Wexford Opera House national status is rather fanciful. There are opera houses throughout Italy in rural areas such as Pesaro which host summer festivals most successfully and with seating capacity even more than Wexford, but the prime opera houses are in Rome and Milan.

We are the only capital in Europe not to have an opera house. We promote this country on the world stage as on a par with others regarding financial services and conference centres so why not an opera house? Minister for Arts Heather Humphreys, please note. – Yours, etc. ANN McLOUGHLIN, Nutley Avenue, Dublin 4.

Sir, – The Government has just promised that high-speed broadband is to be made available to every house in the country. People don’t believe these ridiculously optimistic proclamations any more.

I was in the midlands last Saturday and couldn’t get a good signal on my radio to listen to the Ireland v Australia rugby match! We’ve a bit to do before any promises about broadband will be believed. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 16.

Sir, – Surely, the most equitable way for mortgages to be approved is on the basis of affordability not some random deposit figure (Letters, November 25th). For example, is it okay if someone borrows the 20 per cent deposit as a personal loan or gets it from a friend. Is it equitable if their parents can just give them the deposit? Does that make them more financially responsible than someone who lives within their means and is applying for a mortgage within their salary range but can’t afford to save a 20 per cent deposit, while meeting all the other costs of modern life in Ireland?

Isn’t the better way to cool down the housing market, not by stamping out demand with artificial deposit ranges from a bygone era that makes no sense in the current market, but to approve loans on a case-by-case basis according to what the customer can afford.

Perhaps Prof Drudy should have a chat with his children or grandchildren and compare and contrast their financial reality now with his financial reality when he was their age. Things have changed. It’s long since time that the rules for mortgage lending should be set by the generation who are actually applying for and paying mortgages. – Yours, etc,


Canary Wharf,


Irish Independent:

For many, the water charges seemed to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. But everyone has their own epiphany. A point is reached when you just realise that enough is enough and that you have to do or say something.

I reached this point last Monday when I was charged €100 by Galway Co Council for a letter stating that the road outside my property was in its charge.

I queried this fee that same day and asked to speak to a supervisor. No one was available so I asked for an email address. I duly emailed the person asking for a justification for this exorbitant charge. I have not received a reply. This was the final straw for me.

During the previous week I had read Donna Hartnett’s letter in the Irish Independent and I cried because I was relieved that I wasn’t the only person feeling as she did. Then I read about the expenses our TDs are claiming. How can our politicians justify the immorality of claiming up to and above €200,000 in expenses?

Donna Hartnett spoke about the squeezed middle, the people who have to pay for everything, the people who are assumed to be well off because they have jobs. These are the people who are keeping this country going, the people who have to find €50-€60 to pay the GP when a child is sick. These are the people who work so hard that they are miserable and their children are miserable. We don’t complain because it is not in us to complain.

We don’t live in a Third World country, we are the privileged. But injustice is injustice no matter what part of the world you live in, and Irish society has become very unjust. The gap between rich and poor seems to be getting wider.

This is why I would encourage people to go out and protest on December 10. Water charges may not be the biggest issue for you but if you feel that an injustice is being done to you, your family, your neighbours or your friends, get out there and let your voice be heard.

There are still many issues out there that have not gone away. There are still children with special needs who are not getting the therapies they need because of cutbacks, or because staff are not replaced when they go on maternity leave. Just ask anyone who works for or is a client of the Brothers of Charity services or other service providers.

Protest about the issues you feel are important. Demand that our politicians be accountable, demand that our county councils be accountable to and respectful of the people they serve.

And we don’t need Paul Murphy or any ‘professional’ protesters telling us how we should protest. We are tired of being treated like submissive fools. Politicians, dismiss us at your peril!

Mary O’Donovan

Ballymoe, Co Galway

Socialists’ utopia is a pipe dream

With the rise to prominence of the Socialist Party’s Paul Murphy, an anti-water charges TD, it is worth a visit to his party’s website.

Alongside their ideological rhetoric there are mawkish historical articles, one of which refers to Vladimir Lenin’s Russia as “the most democratic form of government ever embarked on”.

However, the reality for Russian peasants was that after Lenin’s revolution came a prolonged epoch of famine and poverty.

Hard-left politicians have gained a newfound popularity, which is partly due to us being led by a detached Government that is out of touch with public sentiment.

The Socialist Party, has, by concentrating all its efforts on the single issue of water charges, propelled itself to the centre stage of a campaign that mobilised an austerity-weary citizenry.

The populist policies of the hard-left create a fanciful image of a utopian society but they are hardly the basis for a sustainable economic future. Those who may consider switching their allegiances to the hard left should familiarise themselves with the historical failures of Marxist ideology.

History has shown that nowhere in the world has there ever existed a utopian Marxist society – simply put, economic policies that stifle private enterprise and individual creativity have ruinous consequences.

John Bellew

Dunleer, Co Louth

Immigrants just want equality

I am just a normal person living a normal life in this country. I was in Ireland for college and now I’m working here. I always thought Irish people have this great tradition of hospitality and generosity. But I’m afraid I can’t say that anymore.

I don’t know whether you walk or drive pass Burgh Quay every morning. But thousands of people do, and I recommend that you try it some time. There is a great view out there, hundreds of people waiting outside the Irish Naturalisation & Immigration Service (INIS) office, waiting for their visas. Or should I rephrase that – hundreds of foreigners. The freaking queue runs for three blocks. Excuse my language, but I can’t accept the truth.

We are just people who want to go home this Christmas. We’re just people who want to meet our family. And we are just people who have been standing outside the INIS office since 3:30am, in this cold weather, in the rain!

I certainly cannot believe this is how you treat foreigners in this country, and I certainly could not believe I was being treated in this way.

I work hard and I pay my tax. I paid nearly €30,000 every year when I was in college in Ireland, and now I am being treated like a refugee. No, worse – refugees don’t need to pay for the service, but we do.

I don’t know whether Irish people feel shame when they see this as they walk by. I don’t know whether other foreign investors or businessmen feel depressed seeing this when they drive by.

But I know I feel terrible standing out there on the street.

We don’t expect more than anyone else, we just want to be treated equally.

Tianqi Guo

Address with Editor

Marginalising women is unfair

Desmond FitzGerald tells us that having more women in the political system would not be “any different” to the present situation in which nearly 90pc of politicians are male (Letters, Irish Independent, November 25).

In this democracy, which is supposed to be representative, the fact that more than 50pc of the electorate are female and yet since independence women have had a representation in the Oireachtas in single figures in percentage terms says it all.

The reason why we should have more women in the most important decision-making forums in our democracy is not, as Mr FitzGerald implies, that they are better.

The reason is that marginalising the talents, interests and perspectives of the half of the electorate that are women is inefficient and unfair.

A Leavy

Sutton, Dublin

Don’t protest, just get on with it

The silent majority in this country are too busy getting on with their lives to protest. There are still enough driven people in this country for whom rising taxes is just an incentive to work even harder. We are still a very wealthy country.

JP McCarthy

Annascaul, Co Kerry

Water meters: get the facts right

Would politicians and journalists, including those on RTE s ‘This Week’, please get clued up on the meaning of:

(a) estimate cost

(b) budget cost

(c) tender price

(d) contract price

They need to do this to avoid making further idiotic and erroneous comments on the projected cost of the installation of the water meters.

Martin Glynn


Irish Independent


November 25, 2014

25 November 2014 Clinic

I still have arthritis in my left toe I am stricken with gout. But I manage to get to do the housework and take Mary to the clinic.

Mary’s back much better today, breakfast weight down dessert for tea and her tummy pain is still there but decreasing.


The Venerable Richard Ninis – obituary

The Venerable Richard Ninis was a long-serving archdeacon whose zeal for parish reorganisation earned him the nickname ‘Dick the Knife’

Richard Ninis: the potential unpopularity of his parish reforms was mitigated by buffet suppers hosted by his wife, dubbed 'Jane the Fork'

Richard Ninis: the potential unpopularity of his parish reforms was mitigated by the buffet suppers hosted by his wife, dubbed ‘Jane the Fork’

4:55PM GMT 24 Nov 2014


The Venerable Richard Ninis,who has died aged 82, was Archdeacon of Lichfield from 1979 to 1998, having previously been Archdeacon of Stafford, also in the Lichfield diocese. Happy to be described as “a fixer, a mover and a shaker”, at the time of his retirement he was the longest-serving archdeacon in the modern Church of England .

His appointment as an archdeacon came at a time when a serious shortage of clerical manpower and money was demanding radical pastoral reorganisation throughout the Church. He had already had experience of, and developed an enthusiasm for, the creation of team ministries .

There was ample scope for this in the sizeable Lichfield diocese, embracing largely rural Shropshire and industrial Staffordshire. Ninis set to work with an enthusiasm fuelled by a vision of a reformed and renewed church life.

Successive diocesan bishops were more than ready to let him carry the burden of anger and distress often aroused in parishes about to lose their resident priest, and before long he was referred to as “Dick the knife”. Later it was mischievously suggested that, on seeing the three spires of Lichfield Cathedral, he had recommended the merging of the front two and the redundancy of the third.

Potential unpopularity was, however, often mitigated by face-to-face contact with a kind personality who cared deeply for the clergy and their parishes and worked long hours to produce the facts and figures on which responsible decisions might be made. Generous buffet suppers hosted by his wife (dubbed “Jane the fork”) at his home in the Close at Lichfield also helped.

Invariably Ninis was able to demonstrate that reorganisation was the only constructive way forward. Although not every scheme proved successful, his efforts over so many years played a large part in securing the survival of the parochial system in Lichfield diocese.

Richard Betts Ninis, the son of a Somerset farmer, was born on October 25 1931. While reading Agriculture at Lincoln College, Oxford, he felt drawn to Holy Orders, and after graduating he prepared for ordination at Lincoln Theological College. The curacy at All Saints, Poplar, which followed (1955-62) proved to be highly influential. The already large East End parish was extended further and some of its many curates, including Ninis, were designated team vicars with responsibility for particular areas.

Richard Ninis with his wife Jane

When the rector of Poplar, Mark Hodson, moved to become bishop of Hereford in 1961, he invited Ninis to follow him as vicar of St Mark’s church, Hereford, with responsibility also, from 1966, for the neighbouring rural parishes of Upper and Lower Bullinghope, Grafton, Dewsall and Callow.

Thus experienced in the leadership of a multiple-parish benefice, Ninis was appointed diocesan missioner in 1971 and made a prebendary of Hereford Cathedral. An important new responsibility was that of planning officer for the Church’s ministry in the growing new town of Telford, straddling the diocesan boundaries of Hereford and Lichfield. A team ministry, rather than several separate parishes, was prescribed.

Greatly impressed, three years later the Bishop of Lichfield invited Ninis to become Archdeacon of Stafford – a title changed to that of Archdeacon of Lichfield following a reorganisation of diocesan structures in 1979. As canon treasurer, Ninis was by tradition responsible only for the cathedral’s treasures, not for its finances. But he was never going to be constrained or seek the protection of this tradition, and the arrival of a new dean, John Lang, charged with the task of overhauling the cathedral’s creaking administration, led to a fruitful partnership.

Later Ninis was responsible for the creation of an attractive bookshop at the west end of the cathedral; the introduction of a preparatory department in the cathedral school; and the raising of a significant part of a £4 million appeal for the cathedral’s music. His sermons, it was noted, rarely lacked reference to the stewardship of money.

From 1978 to 1990 he was also chairman of the council of the Derbyshire College of Higher Education, playing a part in its development to become the University of Derby, of which he was vice-chairman from 1992 to 1998 .

Richard Ninis retired to his native Somerset in 1998. He is survived by his wife, Jane, whom he married in 1967, and three children.

The Venerable Richard Ninis, born October 25 1931, died October 15 2014


Prince Charles is given a tour of the National Heritage Garden by Raymond Blanc at Belmond Le Manoir Prince Charles is given a tour of the National Heritage Garden by Raymond Blanc at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Great Milton, Oxfordshire, on 21 November 2014. Photograph: Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images

As a foreign outsider, I view British politics from a neutral viewpoint. The problem of Prince Charles’s letters to ministers (Last act in nine-year battle to see content of Charles’s letters, 22 November) points out the very knot of your political system – a system that is only superficially different from the one that has ailed western countries for centuries. Having got rid of kings and princes, such countries claim that democracy is now the prevalent regime. This is a big lie. The will to replace monarchies manifested – and still manifests – the merchant and financier class’s eagerness to suppress all possibility of intervention on the part of a monarch acting as an arbiter in favour of the other classes, more particularly the lower middle class and the lower classes.

That Prince Charles should feel it his duty to wish to intervene in British politics shows that he is fully aware of what is wrong with the present political system. In the UK as well as in France, Italy, Spain, the US, Switzerland and so on, the prevailing system is by no means democracy (elections are a farce) but plutocracy, ie a gathering of bankers, financiers, multinational and deep-state leaders supported by such global institutions as the IMF, the World Bank, the European Central Bank, Nato, the European Union etc, all of them subservient to Washington. Prince Charles’s attitude bears witness to his deep sense of the good he could do to the British people. The hullabaloo his attitude causes demonstrates that the plutocracy intends to defend what it calls globalisation (“a sophisticated system of plunder”, John Pilger justly calls it) and its prerogatives to the bitter end.
Michel Bugnon-Mordant
Fribourg, Switzerland

• Your article (The reign of Charles III, 20 November) said Prince Charles is known for his “meddling”. However, I’m grateful that the Prince of Wales takes the time to meet MPs and write letters to them. He is a voice of reason when he tries to put a brake on governments promoting genetically modified food. His views on GM crops, architecture and more natural farming methods are more in tune with most ordinary people’s opinions. No one now denies that Prince Charles was right about the ugly 1960s and 1970s tower block “architecture”. Unlike government ministers, he doesn’t have to curry favour with the prime minister to safeguard his career, or bow to the demands of industry and other powerful vested interests. We are fortunate to have a prince who doesn’t just sit back and relax, but is concerned about health and the environment.
A Wills

• Prince Charles’s friend Patrick Holden asks how many of us go back to our desks after dinner and remarks that this poor overworked man even writes at 35,000ft (on the royal jet, of course – nothing so dull as a scheduled flight). Well, my husband does, as do millions of other workers who come home to the domestic necessities of life before eating a meal and then returning to essential work for the following day. Maybe Mr Holden and His Royal Highness should abandon some spirituality and worry less about things he obviously knows little about.
Janet Mansfield
Aspatria, Cumbria

• I’m interested to know what form Prince Charles’s “heartfelt interventions” in public life will take. Given his London base, perhaps he would be interested in helping out the London residents of the New Era housing estate by using his not inconsiderable private fortune to buy out the new American owners and thereby giving the present residents back their homes and security (How New Era went from tight-knit community to a global investment, 22 November). It would be a huge statement of the concern he claims to have for the people of this country.
Julia Hall
Morebattle, Scottish Borders

• Admirers of Prince Charles are keen to highlight his interest in organic farming and education, but his views on fur are less well known. In his diaries (entry for 7 March 2006 in Decline and Fall), Chris Mullin records a conversation with John Gilbert, who told him of a time at the MoD when there was a debate on the future of the Guards regiments wearing bearskins. The prospect of artificial bearskins being used resulted “in a letter of protest from the heir to the throne”. Much to Gilbert’s credit, the letter went unanswered.
Tim Wood
East Cowton, North Yorkshire

• Let us not forget that Charles (Speak up, Your Highness. But be ready for the backlash, 21 November) will also be the future King of Australia. I for one hope he shares his dislike of anything post-1967 with us antipodeans, for I can think of no better individual to reinvigorate the cause for an Australian republic.
Richard McKenzie
Melbourne, Australia

• If Prince Charles wishes to make “heartfelt interventions”, he should relinquish the succession and write letters to the Guardian like the rest of us.
David Parker
Meltham, West Yorkshire

Hand shake ‘Strong trade unions must have a central role in a fairer, safer, more secure workplace,’ says Stephen Cavalier. Photograph: Alamy

Seumas Milne (Austerity has clearly failed, 20 November) rightly points out the destructive economic and social effects of an insecure workforce, through zero-hours contracts, the exploitation of migrant workers and the lack of secure and stable jobs.

The workplace relationship needs to be rebalanced, so that everyone at work is treated with dignity and respect, producing a more positive and productive working environment. Strong trade unions must have a central role in a fairer, safer, more secure workplace. Under this government, insecurity, limited rights, economic uncertainty and a lack of legal protection have all become part of a day’s work for too many people in the UK. Huge numbers of workers feel disempowered, disenchanted and disengaged.

That’s why in parliament last week we discussed with MPs and trade unionists our idea for a workplace pledge for every worker, based on the principle of giving rights at work which are fair, clear, understood and enforced. The workplace pledge would provide a framework for tackling and reversing the current trend towards ever greater insecurity, while providing a tool to help rebuild strong, union-organised workplaces.

Every worker, on day one at work, would receive a pledge that sets out their rights and how to exercise them. Key to this would be a fair rate of pay, transparency of pay rates, an end to zero-hours contracts, a safe and secure workplace, an end to employment tribunal fees and a voice at work with the right of access to an independent trade union to advise and represent.

By establishing a pledge to be honoured by all employers, we could tackle exploitation and establish enforceable collective standards applicable to all, bringing an end to the casualisation and undercutting that has such damaging and divisive effects.
Owen Smith MP Labour, Pontypridd, and shadow Welsh secretary, Stephen Cavalier Chief executive, Thompsons Solicitors Hugh Lanning Labour parliamentary candidate for Canterbury


Three crucial issues are misrepresented in the increasingly hysterical “debate” about EU immigration into the UK.

First, Eurosceptics claim that EU immigrants are “taking British jobs”. In reality they are taking jobs that Britons could have, but won’t do at the wages on offer. This is not only the case at the bottom of the scale: 2,300 Polish doctors have come to work in the UK, but in the last year alone over 500 British GPs took their skills abroad.

A second assertion is that the cost of accommodating immigrants damages the British economy. In fact the UK’s vaunted “economic success” depends on a constant supply of labour prepared to work hard for low pay. Any restrictions the government manages to impose on economic immigration will hurt employers first, and the rest of us later.

Finally, eurosceptics endlessly point to Norway and Switzerland as countries which can make their own rules, free of EU red tape. The reality is that both countries maintain their access to European markets only by accepting all aspects of EU freedom of movement regulations – as well as 95 per cent of other EU regulation.

Both are signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights, and both belong to the Schengen agreement abolishing borders and passport controls within Europe.

Eurosceptic politicians know that most of their claims about EU immigration are demonstrably nonsense. Nevertheless, they appear to be prepared to spout whatever they think might maintain their party in government or themselves in jobs. Where is the genuine leader, of any party, who will cut through the obfuscation and win the arguments by telling the truth? Voters do not like to be taken for fools.

John Brand


I wholeheartedly agree with Ian Richards (letter, 24 November) in that the economic benefits of immigration are undeniable and that the country would be in a sorry state were we to leave the EU. However, Ukip is capitalising on the areas of the country that have seen inward migration on a massive scale with no corresponding increase in local spending. The Government would do well to remember that there are costs at a local level associated with immigration, as well as benefits.

The people in these areas have raised valid concerns about provision of housing, sanitation, education, and medical and dental services, and have long been decried as racist by the media and politicians.

While I am in no way supportive of Ukip in general, I applaud the fact that the immigration issue is actually now being discussed and that there’s a chance of people’s concerns being properly addressed rather than ignored.

Alan Gregory

First they came for the immigrants from outside Europe.

Then they came for the (almost non-existent) EU immigrants who come here just to claim welfare.

Now they’re after the EU working poor (getting rid of tax credits for hardworking immigrants in menial jobs).

I’m an Irish immigrant who’s worked hard and paid taxes here for almost 20 years. I wonder when it will be my turn.

David Clarke

Young, poor and unrepresented

Your headline “The young are the new poor” (24 November) is impossible to disagree with. Even more sadly, the problems of the young can only get worse. Their prospects are dire as your article details, and all indications are that future demand for unskilled or semi-skilled labour can only get less.

Technology will ensure that work can be done, and therefore profits made, with less and less involvement by human beings. Can anyone imagine employers not taking this chance with both hands?

Only a complete rethink of social and financial conditions will even begin to solve the problems that loom, and there are no signs that any political party has even considered them, much less begun to work out a solution.

Bill Fletcher
Cirencester,  Gloucestershire


Andreas Whittam Smith (20 November) raises some very pertinent questions in his excellent piece on the widening wealth gap.

Of course it cannot be right that chief executives and other board members of most public companies “earn” 120 times the average salary of their full-time employees. Why does no political party rail against this “conspiracy in the nation’s boardrooms”, which rewards custodianship rather than entrepreneurism?

Of course, investment in deprived areas would raise the overall economic output of this country. Why does no political party understand this?

Yes, correcting gross inequality is an obvious political programme in search of a political party.

It is a sad fact of modern British politics that the main parties are increasingly appealing to the fringes of the political spectrum.

Having spent the last two weeks on jury service, I am reminded that the vast majority in this country are decent, hardworking and right-thinking people, broadly at the centre of the political spectrum, who no longer have any political party representing their views on what makes for a just and equitable society.

Nick Eastwell
London SE10

Tweet from inside the Westminster bubble

As Premiership footballers are failing to realise, tweeting gets you into trouble. If Ed Miliband has saved Emily Thornberry from being hounded by the press, he has done her a favour. Her failure to realise the tweet would get into the papers and round the political world underlines a bigger problem – the lack of reality of the political class.

As Hazel Blears MP has pointed out, the number of politicians who have no experience of life is rising. They live in the Westminster bubble and hob-nob with each other in a world of gossip and chit-chat.

Maybe discovering someone with the English flag on their house seemed worthy of attention in the world Ms Thornberry lives in, but who in the real world would pay it a moment’s notice?

If the political class thinks tweeting is a good idea, what chance do they have of understanding anything serious – such as the rise of the SNP and Ukip?

Trevor Fisher


We often and rightly go by appearances, even though sometimes they lead to error

If, in an election with Ukip as front-runner, a Labour politician sees a house decked with English flags, she may well sigh and judge the residents Ukip supporters; she may even tweet the image, showing what she is up against.  Isn’t it time that politicians and the media grew up, instead of blowing up every possible interpretation of every action?

Peter Cave
London W1

Emily Thornberry may have been contemptuous of White Van Dan, but that doesn’t preclude the possibility that she was prepared to work hard to improve his lot. Was it Charlie Brown or Snoopy who said “Humanity’s all right. It’s people I can’t stand”?

Jim Vickers
Redcar, Cleveland

Polite Jewish response to incitement

In a predominantly Jewish area of London on Saturday, a group of protesters appeared unannounced handing out anti-Israel leaflets with a Palestinian flag behind them and with anti-Israel slogans around them.

While their action was potentially inciteful to the local community, people accepted their right to free speech and argued politely. No protection was needed. The most extreme form of challenge took the form of neatly tearing up the leaflets and handing them back to the protesters (so as not to litter the pavement).

I wonder how pro-Zionist and Jewish protesters would fare down in Tower Hamlets, in east London, with an Israeli flag draped behind them and pro-Israeli slogans and leaflets?

Stephen Spencer Ryde
Finchley, London N3


Hit the bosses, not the banks

We have had yet another spate of fines for the misdeeds of banks. A substantial proportion of the fines diminishes our pensions, as pension companies are major shareholders of the banks.

The directors of banks are responsible for whom they employ and the actions of their employees. Is it not time that company law was amended so that directors, rather than their companies, would be directly penalised for the behaviour of their employees?

Roger Booth

Hamilton wins, Britain loses

It was good to see Lewis Hamilton proudly waving the Union Flag after he won the Formula One world title.

Perhaps he will follow this up by moving back from Monaco and start paying taxes in the country of which he seems so proud.

James Gibb
Ampthill, Bedfordshire


Far from being ‘prisons of the mind’, the vast majority of faith schools passionately uphold respect for others

Sir, Far from being, as your headline puts it, “prisons of the mind”, Catholic schools are envied precisely for the excellence of their teaching and performance across all disciplines (Janice Turner, Opinion, Nov 22). In professions such as science and philosophy, where independent minds and openness to ideas count most, Catholics excel.

Yet because fanatics have manipulated some Muslim “faith schools”, Janice Turner thinks that faith schools are particularly vulnerable to fanaticism. But Muslim fanatics manipulate secular schools as well; and pupils of Catholic “faith schools” are the least likely to engage in the tragic sectarianism that centuries of political manipulation have caused and fostered, sometimes deliberately, in Northern Ireland.

Catholic parents pay the taxes that fund their schools. Must their children be forced into schools, secularist in principle, where their faith is treated as “something other people do”?

Tom McIntyre
Frome, Somerset

Sir, If Janice Turner wants all schools to be diverse communities that provide a high standard of education while promoting respect for others, she should rejoice in the vast majority of faith schools that passionately uphold these values. Instead, by hijacking a serious issue in an attempt to advance her own anti-religious agenda, she undermines the very principles she claims to advocate.

David Culley

Sir, Rachel Sylvester (“Ministers take sides in Tory culture clash”, Nov 18) misses the point when she claims that some Tories are “complaining about the promotion of equality”. Our letter to Nicky Morgan, the education secretary, highlighted the serious challenges to freedom of religion, both legal and philosophical, inherent in her new regulations.

The state requiring faith schools to actively promote things that are antithetical to their faith undermines the entire ethos of these schools, as well as striking a powerful and disconcerting blow against the freedom of conscience.

The regulations also mark a complete volte face from decades of previous Conservative policy of offering schools, families and communities more freedom from state-enforced orthodoxies.

Sir Edward Leigh, MP
House of Commons

Sir, Rachel Sylvester misses out a key player in the story of getting the drains unblocked in No 10. The person who persuaded the PM to go into “Dyno-Rod mode” on the GCSE religious studies criteria was Stephen Lloyd, the MP for Eastbourne, who is chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on religious education. What he understands is the key role that good religious education plays in preparing young people in all our schools to live successfully in a world where faith and belief are, for better as well as for worse, at the top of the news on a daily basis.

Dr Joyce Miller
Chairwoman, Religious Education Council, London N1

Sir, Is it not time for an urgent national debate about the place of religious studies in schools, whether state, faith or private? Janice Turner calls for the minimisation of the subject in the face of fears about partisan teaching and social unrest. Whether such dangers are justified or not, there is no doubt in my experience that a model of religious studies that has philosophy (and not dogma) at its heart is a popular one, and as such can enable a truly open society to flourish.

This is something which politicians of all persuasions might embrace, not least because students want to explore ideas, religious and atheist alike, and to be taken seriously as members of society. Any new plans for the subject and the curriculum should surely take this into account.

Esmond Lee
Head of Religious Studies, Trinity School, Croydon

A checklist can save a child’s life — and so too, it would seem, can a procedure more suited to reviving lambs

Sir, Atul Gawande’s article “How a checklist saved a little girl’s life” (Opinion, Nov 22) reminded me of an event in the late 1970s, when an infant fell into the garden pond of one of my neighbours. On hearing an anguished scream followed by pleas for help, I and an elderly neighbour dropped our gardening tools and struggled over the hedges and fence that separated us from the commotion.

The three-year-old girl was at the bottom of the pond; I jumped in, pulled her out and passed her lifeless body to my neighbour. He lay her down, got hold of her ankles, lifted her up and began, in a lunatic fashion, to swing her around his head. Horrified and paralysed, the child’s mother and I watched as, moments later, water poured from the child’s mouth and nose, and she gave a loud cry.

I asked my neighbour where he’d learnt to do such a thing. He said he’d been a shepherd for 30-odd years, and when lambs were born “dead” it was the standard way of making them breathe and of ridding their mouth of birth debris. But for the grace of this old shepherd, Aaron, that child would not be alive today.

Anita Menzies


Surely it is time that players should use words in common usage, not ones that no-one has ever heard of

Sir, The Scrabble dictionary may have promoted domestic tranquillity (leader, Nov 24) but it has severely damaged the game. Instead of being one of skill and ingenuity, the game has now become one of memory: the winner is whoever can memorise enough obscure words from that wretched volume. At least half the words on the championship-winning board (Nov 24) would not figure in any reasonably well-educated person’s vocabulary. How many people have used, or even heard of, diorite, gapo, kon, kaw, talaq, umu, ventrous, or xenic? Not to mention all those highly dubious two-letter words such as al, de, et, si, or xu?

Could not the publishers of the Scrabble dictionary take a leaf out of the compilers of concise dictionaries, and produce a list of words in common usage?

Julian Le Grand


What are the real implications of GPs being on first-name terms with their patients?

Sir, I paternally encourage my doctor to be on Christian name terms with me (“Chummy young doctors are bad for your health”, Nov 24) so as not to emphasise the social differences between us.

John Hatton

Nailsworth, Glos

How can anyone really think that French motorway service stations are something for Britain to aspire to?

Sir, I am amazed that anyone still thinks that French motorway service stations are superior to their UK counterparts (Nov 24). The worst meal we have ever encountered was in a service station near Orleans. Wanting something that would be relatively quick, we ordered two omelettes — and watched as the server opened the freezer, took out a bag, put it in the microwave and then emptied it onto a plate.

We have had a house in France for 20 years, and for several years now have found the quality of everyday eating establishments (especially pubs) in the UK to be considerably better than it is in France.

Gill Walker

Ilminster, Somerset


Letters: A Tory’s vote for Ukip could mean propping up Labour with the SNP

The danger of voting Ukip; women proving themselves in the police force; protecting children from the cyber-threat posed by webcams without passwords.

A UKIP supporter waves to photographers outside party headquarters in Rochester

A UKIP supporter waves to photographers outside party headquarters in Rochester Photo: 2014 Getty Images

7:00AM GMT 24 Nov 2014


SIR – I hope that voters currently deserting the Tories and supporting Ukip in

by-elections will think seriously about the outcome of continuing to do so at the general election.

With the collapse of Labour in Scotland and loss of Tory seats to Ukip, there is a real possibility that the next government could be a coalition of Labour and the SNP. The thought of Ed Miliband as PM is bad enough, but the price the taxpayers of England would have to pay for his SNP support is even more concerning.

R W Mansell

SIR – There may be truth in your warning that those voting for Ukip could help put Mr Miliband into No 10. Whether this is true or not, there is one certainty about the general election: if we continue to vote the same, we will just get more of the same.

Terry Lloyd
Darley Abbey, Derbyshire

SIR – Nigel Farage’s battle cry is: “Vote for Ukip, you get Ukip.”

Then what? On the BBC’s Sunday Politics programme yesterday, Ukip’s first elected MP (Douglas Carswell) disagreed with a statement on immigration made by the party’s newly elected MP (Mark Reckless). Confusion already in the ranks.

Elaine Nobbs
Pyrford, Surrey

SIR – What worries me most about Thursday’s events is the spectre of the further Americanisation of our politics, with Ukip playing the fundamentally negative Tea Party role, preventing the major parties from developing and proposing sensible, moderate policies which might have cross-party appeal.

The crassness of Emily Thornberry’s actions will increase the sense of a culture war, pitting the elite against the common man, and therefore her departure is to be welcomed. However, I cannot help but feel the Conservatives are reaping what they sowed in their opposition to voting reform in the 2011 referendum; our system rewards the largest minority and, unless the major parties stop acting like preening public schoolboys at a debating competition, next year’s general election may just see Ukip benefit from this, to the detriment of all of us.

Andrew Jukes
Eye, Suffolk

SIR – The saddest aspect of Emily Thornberry’s ill-judged Rochester tweet is not her alleged sneering at white van man, but that the white van man apparently didn’t even know there was a by-election in Rochester and Strood.

In the aftermath, the white van man apparently was happy to be hijacked by the popular press to make a cynical and wholly ignorant point about democracy in distasteful publicity shots outside Emily Thornberry’s home.

Charles Foster
Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire

Women in the police

SIR – Isabel Hardman says she sees less and less sexism in the workplace. As a WPC, from 1972 I served in three police services for 25 years: on foot duty; in the Criminal Investigation Department; and in the Mounted Branch.

When women were first accepted into specialist roles within the police, of course they were scrutinised. At that time, there was a real fear among men that, in violent situations, a woman might burst into tears and run away, or seek protection of her male colleagues. A weak link would have made the men more vulnerable to attack.

Was it really unreasonable to ask any police officer: “Are you able to do this particular task to the required level of expertise?” Both men and women were exposed if they were not up to the task.

An ability to laugh at oneself and with others was as essential as being able to keep calm in volatile situations.

There was no concept of a “nominal woman” in the Mounted Branch; when I applied, I simply was expected to meet the requirements of the role. Once I had proved that I was equal to men in terms of ability, fitness, loyalty and courage, then I was totally accepted and respected within the great family that is the police service. Surely that is equality.

I think there will always be disgruntled people who have chosen the wrong career paths and blame the organisation for their lack of success.

Margaret Hopkinson
Theydon Bois, Essex

Christmas too soon

SIR – As a member of a number of social and sporting clubs, I am frequently invited to Christmas celebrations. Some of these are held as early as November, mainly because they would not otherwise fit in with all the others. I decline to attend any of them on the grounds that I am keeping my taste buds fresh for the real thing. Thus, I am branded a curmudgeon and a killjoy.

Chris Harding
Parkstone, Dorset

Breakfast of champions

SIR – My dad always had a decent breakfast before work: bacon and two eggs with bread fried in lard. At the weekend he added fried tomatoes and mushrooms.

Alas, he died of a heart attack, just two weeks before his 97th birthday.

Harvey Clegg
Woodbridge, Suffolk

The new cyber-threat

SIR – It is common practice for many networked products, such as webcams and routers, to have either no password set or a published default password set when they are first installed.

To protect their security, users need to ensure that these devices are correctly set up and, where applicable, new passwords or Pins are set. This basic cyber-hygiene helps protect the safety and privacy of children, and it is particularly important where devices such as webcams are installed in bedrooms.

As more consumer devices are networked as part of the emerging “Internet of Things”, this issue will become more pressing.

Manufacturers or suppliers of those networked devices should consider whether there are ways of encouraging the user to set a password or new password when the devices is first installed. This might, for example, involve disabling the device until the password has been set.

Hugh Boyes
Institution of Engineering and Technology
London WC2

Recycling too much

SIR – In my area, paper and card for recycling go into large red bags. We have two newspapers a day, plus freebies and cardboard. Our bag is always full.

Last week, the paper got wet, and was therefore heavier than usual, and the council-issued bags don’t close at the sides.

Last Monday we were reprimanded for recycling too much paper, had our red bag taken from us, and were told to use plastic carrier bags in future.

It was only after a great deal of argument and my pointing out that we have been told not to use plastic bags that I managed to have a red bag reissued.

We are keen recyclers and composters, but there is a limit to how much paper we can mix into our garden waste.

Gillian Lurie
Westgate-on-Sea, Kent

Floral tribute

SIR – Our 21 prolific Silver Jubilee roses have given us and our neighbours great pleasure over the 32 years since they were planted.

Could this year’s output of 1,061 blooms be a record?

Margaret Finlay
Bowdon, Cheshire

SIR – On Saturday I thought I would surprise my wife and bought her some oriental lilies advertised in the florist’s window as “£6 a bunch”, plus some freesias.

When I got home, my wife quite rightly said it was difficult to make an arrangement with two lilies. Since when did two constitute a bunch?

Brian Lee
Saffron Walden, Essex

French leave

SIR – In the spring term in 1958, I was 21st out of 21 in my form in French. At Easter, I went on an exchange to Paris and Aix-les-Bains.

At the end of the summer term, I was fourth in French in my class. The following year I returned to Aix: I had fallen in love at 13 with my exchange boy’s cousin, Marie-Christine.

Alas, I broke my right leg in three places on my first day skiing and, strangely, my most abiding memory of that time is being offered a whole boiled artichoke by a lovely nun in hospital.

Simon Edsor
London SW1

Honouring India’s war dead on the South Downs

The Chattri memorial was built where a ghat, or funeral pyre, once stood above Patcham

SIR – General Lord Dannatt and others call for all Britons to remember the contributions of soldiers from across the Empire in the First World War. Indian sacrifice is certainly remembered in Brighton, where some 12,000 Indian soldiers – wounded and sick from the Western front – were treated at three hospitals in 1914-15.

Each June we hold a service at the Chattri war memorial at Patcham, which stands in memory of all Indians who fell in the First World War, but is particularly associated with the 53 Hindu and Sikh soldiers who died in Brighton hospitals (their 21 Muslim brothers in arms were buried at Shah Jehan Mosque in Woking).

In 2010 the Commonwealth War Graves Commission belatedly erected a Cremation Memorial adjacent to the Chattri. This memorial lists the names and regiments of the men who were cremated on the site.

Tom Donovan
Brighton, East Sussex

SIR – The “Remember WW1” campaign is an admirable attempt to honour the memory of the war dead.

Sadly, an institution that also aims to prevent our forgetting what happened 100 years ago, the Imperial War Museum’s library, is under threat of closure due to funding cuts. The letters, records and diaries available to ordinary people to study all aspects of British and Commonwealth involvement in conflict since 1914 should not be closed.

Rohaise Thomas-Everard
Dulverton, Somerset

Why St Pancras cannot be the HS2 terminus

SIR – Stuart Robertson may be surprised to learn that there was a proposal for an automated people mover (APM) between Euston and St Pancras stations published by HS2 Ltd at the behest of the Government in 2009. However, it was subsequently decided that an HS2-HS1 rail link would be preferable, and the APM was cancelled.

A report issued in June 2013 by GreenGauge 21, the non-profit group that investigates high-speed rail, showed that the uptake by international passengers of a rail link would be very low and, in fact, it would be of more use to domestic passengers – for example, those travelling from Birmingham to Stratford or Old Oak Common to Ashford. The Government has now cancelled the link altogether, but has not reinstated the APM which is needed.

Euston was not plucked out of the air. Twenty-nine options for a London terminus were considered. All were eliminated for practical reasons, including St Pancras. Anyone who thinks that it can be built at the latter should tell us how 11 1,360ft-platforms can be built there without demolishing the British Library.

John Brandon
Tonbridge, Kent

Irish Times:

A Chara, – In his critique of the Irish education system and the quality of its teachers, your education correspondent (Joe Humphreys, Weekend, November 22nd) fails to mention a number of significant factors which cannot be measured by test results or performance – levels on international comparisons of education performance.

As the American educator and writer Diane Ravitch comments, “when we reflect on why education matters we think of virtues that are not and cannot be measured: character, curiosity, responsibility, persistence, generosity, compassion, creativity, moral courage”.

Good teachers and good schools constantly strive to promote these virtues and often with insufficient State support. My colleague, who teaches in a mixed first/second class with 35 students, would love to find herself in class tomorrow morning with that “average” number of 24.

I would like to invite any commentator, journalist or politician to gather that number of people in to a small room for a day and keep them merrily on task, from nine o’clock in the morning until three o’clock in the afternoon, not forgetting the 10-minute break mid-morning and the half-hour break for lunch – unless of course it is your yard-duty day.

It is not an easy task. And it requires huge investment and expertise. – Is mise, etc,



Co Meath.

Sir, – I have heard many promises that the new Junior Cert will avoid “teaching to the test”.

The statement is just put out there without any evidence.

No examples of how this happens are ever presented. A teacher teaches the curriculum which appears on the Junior Cert. I can’t see many predictive patterns in English Junior Cert.

I teach the entire curriculum safe in the knowledge that I don’t know exactly what is coming up.

But if there are patterns in the existing Junior Cert that lend themselves to “teaching to the test” any chance the media might dig them out, rather than trotting out clichés?

At present I don’t write Junior Cert papers. I don’t have access to them. Under the new proposed system I will decide project/test work. I will be the author, or perhaps, part of a committee of authors. Not only that but I will correct it too.

It would be terrific to live in a world where a teacher would not redraft student work or where a student might not enlist the work of others to redraft their work but sure as day follows night – it will happen despite all the well wishing in the world. – Yours, etc, BARRY HAZEL, Bray, Co Wicklow. Sir, – The Chicago public school system which educates 400,000 students each year made available all the data from its standardised annual tests of students in elementary and secondary schools from 1993 to 2000 to an academic study.

It used algorithm methods to determine if teachers cheated when administering these exams to their own students. The findings proved that 5 per cent of teachers had cheated.

This figure was considered conservative as the algorithms only detected egregious cheating.

The main reasons determined for cheating varied from career enhancement, self-esteem, and concern for their students.

No wonder teachers are concerned about the independence and fairness of the Junior Cert. Continuous assessment is very much a part of every teacher’s and school’s armoury but a once-off national standard test should be administered independently.

Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan should also know what every business person in the country knows about change management – it only works if the people it affects at least have a say in its development but, preferably, if they think it was their idea in the first place.

Why were the teachers not properly consulted?

Listen to the teachers. Listen to the parents . – Yours, etc, PATRICIA CRISP, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4.

Sir, – Apparently my 92-year-old mother will be in good company (“Relatives to play key role in 2016 Rising commemorations”, November 13th) as there are many sons and daughters of 1916 Volunteers still kicking up their heels well into their 80s and 90s and even some centenarians.

These “children” of the 1916 men and women are a direct living link to the spirit and ideals of 1916 as set out in the Proclamation. They are national treasures. They have something to say on how they would like the 2016 national commemorations to go ahead and how they would like their parents remembered beyond 2016.

Has anyone remembered to ask them? And will they take note and act? Fast. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – The elephant in the room is the huge increase in property tax that will fall into the Government’s lap in January 2016, only 14 months away, as a result of vastly increased property values over the past 18 months.

The 15 per cent reduction in the charge is a tiny concession in a market where prices have risen by over 60 cent in many areas. We are tied into paying these charges as, unlike in the case of water charges, provision has already been made to deduct this tax at source from wages, pensions, and unemployment benefit if we do not voluntarily pay up.

Property tax should cover provision of infrastructure for services to our homes.

This windfall to Government coffers should be ring-fenced and invested in upgrading the water service and fixing the leaks in our long neglected water system, leaving us to pay minimal charges for water provision.

– Yours, etc, ANNE-MARIE MOCKLER Marino, Dublin 3.

Sir, – As a recent climber of Carrauntoohil mountain I am not sorry to see the cutting down of the cross.

Structures such as the cross have no place on top of such a beautiful mountain. It was out of place and a blot on the landscape.

Before people go charging up to restore the cross I hope they remember to apply for planning permission as I am sure there are a lot of like minded people who would like to object. Keep crosses off the tops of mountains and leave mountain tops joyful and spiritual places to be. – Yours, etc, COLM O’BRIEN, Old Bawn, Dublin 24.

Tue, Nov 25, 2014, 01:05

First published: Tue, Nov 25, 2014, 01:05

Sir, – Following on from the various contributions to the debate about prostitution in you pages we would like to offer three points to this debate. We are two feminist scholars with expertise in the areas of prostitution, trafficking, migration and public policy.

First, the experiences of women (and men) in the sex trade are diverse. There are victims and there are those who do not see themselves as victims and do not seek help or protection.

Second, the so-called Swedish model does not work. It has reduced on-street prostitution significantly, but off-street activities have apparently grown. Migrant women are still showing up in the sector. There are profound difficulties in implementing the law to do with resources and the kinds of evidence needed for prosecutions.

Third, evidence from states the world over shows one thing: the desire to regulate prostitution through the criminal justice system systematically displaces and reproduces the activity in ways in which the seller of sex invariably comes off worst in the long run. Good public policy, likely to reach its goals, is much enhanced when it draws on evidence-based research and begins by conceptualising the problem in the round.

The problem is not simple and the solution is not either. – Yours, etc DR EILÍS WARD, NUI Galway. DR GILLIAN WYLIE, Trinity College Dublin. Sir, – The most oppressive element of sex work is the shortfall in our society that still leaves some people cornered in situations where they have no honest and viable economic alternative to selling sexual services whether they are comfortable with that or not.

There is no justification for “end demand” legislation aimed at destroying the market for sexual services until we, as a society, have first thoroughly ensured that we are not continuing to leave people cornered with no honest and viable options. – Yours, etc,



Co Wicklow.

A Chara, – The news that Minister for Business and Employment Ged Nash intends to carry out a study into the prevalence of zero-hour and low-hour contracts and their impact on low-paid employees is welcome but research alone is no substitute for robust legislation to outlaw these ultra-exploitative practices.

Such zero-hour contracts are nothing more than the latest cynical use of the recession to further undermine working conditions and wages. They are an attack on the dignity and rights of workers.

Workers on these contracts are not guaranteed employment from one week to the next, have no guaranteed weekly hours or weekly income and are unable to take on other work as they have to be on constant call from employers.

Workers on zero-hour contracts are unable to get mortgages, plan family life and many have worries about putting food on the table. Employers use these contracts to keep staff in a permanent state of insecurity, cut wages and avoid paying pensions and holiday pay.

Over one million workers in Britain are contracted to this insecure form of employment and a recent study suggested that the practice is far more widespread than official figures estimate.

In Ireland, workers have at least some protection under the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997. But there is evidence, that despite legislation, many companies are using zero-hour contracts, predominantly in non-unionised workplaces in the service industries.

Even though several of these companies are large multi-nationals raking in millions of euro in profit, the State is in reality subsidising their low pay and exploitative practices through increased social welfare and family income supplements at an estimated cost of some €280 million per year.

Outlawing zero-hours contracts would immediately help improve the lives of thousands of low-paid workers.

It would save the taxpayer millions in reduced social welfare spending and boost consumer spending in the economy. – Is mise, etc, KEVIN P McCARTHY, Headford, Killarney, Co Kerry.

Sir, – Breda O’Brien (Opinion November, 22nd) makes reference to the proposed adaptation of the concept in Article 38 (1) of the German Basic Law into the Irish Constitution by way of the draft 34th Amendment of the Constitution (Members of the Oireachtas) Bill 2014, as a means to impose a relaxation of the rigid whip system.

However, in the Bundestag, the binding guidance of fraktionsdisziplin (political party caucus voting cohesion) still applies and is effectively adhered to by German party parliamentarians.

In reality, Article 38 (1) is only invoked on relatively rare occasions and certainly would not, for example, allow a parliamentarian to be safeguarded from internal party discipline upon persistent opposition to the policies of that party, which seems to be a major rationale for the introduction of the aforementioned bill.

In order to satisfactorily alleviate the rigidity of the whip system, a better resolution would be to replicate the modus operandi within the UK House of Commons, where one-line and two-line whips are regularly granted.

There is no constitutional amendment necessary to adopt such a practice into the Oireachtas.

The main obstacle to this, however, would be the fact that Opposition and media criticism of one-line and two-line whipped votes lost by the Government would persistently permeate, as is the case in the UK whenever a government bill is defeated as a result of “backbench rebellion”.

Allowing a greater culture of agreed bilateral authorship on new legislation to prevail in the Oireachtas would be the strongest antidote to such an intrinsic dilemma. – Yours, etc, JOHN KENNEDY, Goatstown, Dublin 14.

Sir, – I notice that the 20 per cent housing deposit proposal by the Governor of the Central Bank Patrick Honohan is unfortunately coming under fire.

The opponents are apparently pushing for some sort of insurance scheme to cover half the deposit.

This is on the lines of the misguided “Help to Buy” scheme in the UK which contributed significantly to the escalation of house prices, especially in the Greater London area.

Have the opponents of the Central Bank proposal forgotten so quickly that the crash of 2008, and the consequent suffering of our people, was caused largely by irresponsible lending and an unsustainable borrowing frenzy?

The recent unsustainable increases in house prices can only lead to one thing – a further crash and more suffering.

The Central Bank is simply attempting to avoid the excesses of the past.

The 20 per cent deposit would be to the advantage of those wishing to purchase a home.

It would stabilise or even reduce house prices. What on earth is wrong with that? – Yours, etc, PJ DRUDY , Emeritus professor of economics, Trinity College Dublin,

Sir, – It is beyond my comprehension that Wexford Opera House, a regional theatre, will achieve national status.

I speak from experience. I’ve attended more than 130 of Wagner’s operas live in performance in all major cities in Europe, as well as other operas and concerts. I’ve attended numerous Wagner Festivals at Bayreuth. I’ve also attended Wexford Festival Opera.

Recently, the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre was sold by Nama to a third party, instead of being taken by the State and converted into an opera house.

The Grand Canal theatre has all the appearances of an opera house, and it is located in the capital city. It has seating capacity for 2,111 patrons.It does not need to be exclusively for opera. Wexford Opera House seats up to 750 and while it’s beautifully appointed, it doesn’t otherwise cut the mustard. If Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys goes ahead with this plan, Ireland will still be the only country in the Europe not to have an opera house in its capital city.

It’s a very disappointing decision. – Yours, etc, CHRISTOPHER McQUAID The Wagner Society of Ireland, Tallaght, Dublin 24

Irish Independent:

Politicians and some sections of the media have recently been telling me why, for the first time in my 50-odd years, I recently walked in protest against the Government. Apparently I was there because of a “lack of communication” and I was suffering from a “lack of clarity” on the issue of Irish Water.

Allow me the space to “clarify” and “communicate” with those politicians who apparently have the insight – some might call it arrogance – to be able to inform me of my motivations for protesting. The charge for water can’t be seen in isolation, because this new tax (and it is a tax) comes out of the same wage packet as all the other taxes heaped upon us by this Government under Enda Kenny. The Government was given a mandate by us to stand by their promises to reform the body politic and protect this country and economy from the predations of the international financial community and the so-called ‘austerity’ programme proposed by the EU.

Not only did Kenny’s Government fail to do this, it actively conspired with the banks and the EU to implement these same measures.

Can we now ignore all the years of accumulated emotional and political baggage around the 1916 Proclamation? Just look at what it says: “We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible . . . The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all of the children of the nation equally.”

Are we not entitled to this, after so many years of self-serving politicians paying lip-service to such high ideals? And to those who would scoff at such an idea, who would dismiss such talk as pipe-dream idealism, I would say that without idealism, without those dreams, we forsake a vital part of our humanity and have truly been defeated and become soulless slaves serving an inhuman economic machine.

Most founding states rightly begin by stating such noble aspirations and measure their success by how close they come to achieving them – in much the same way that, as individuals, we aspire to embody all the noble human virtues. We accept these virtues may be impractical or even unattainable, but it is the holding dear of, and the struggle to remain close to, such ideals which gives our lives real purpose.

These ideals of citizenhood are not the property or sole province of any race.

They don’t get votes in an election. But their protection and promotion nourishes the soul of a nation. I refuse to give up on these high ideals.

As things stand, the quality of our political leadership is summed up in a few lines from the poem ‘The Secret People’ by GK Chesterton:

“They have given us into the hand of the new unhappy lords,

“Lords without anger and honour, who dare not carry their swords.

“They fight by shuffling paper; they have bright red alien eyes;

“They look at our labour and laughter as a tired man looks at flies.

“And the load of their loveless pity is worse than the ancient wrongs.

“Their doors are shut in the evening; and they know no songs.”

This is why I recently walked the streets of my town in protest.

Kevin Power

Dungarvan, Co Waterford

Lessons from the Celtic Tiger

The first serious signs of economic growth since the death of the Celtic Tiger do not call for unconditional celebration, as economic recovery does not imply equitable distribution of the fruits of growth.

Many economists see inequality as the price we pay for growth, whilst others find little overall relationship between inequality in wealth and rates of growth.

What seems more obvious to me is the negative impact of the relationship between levels of individual wealth and access to political power and to productive resources.

Governments have to trust their civil servants and advisers in making economic decisions.

They work with the very inexact science of economics, where significant margins of error characterise their efforts. By the very nature of the job, governments can get things badly wrong.

There are two separate threads to economic life.

On the one hand, we have the finance sector involved in gambling with money; on the other hand, we have innovative entrepreneurs creating new businesses, new products and jobs to go with them.

Though the small to medium-sized enterprises (here I include farming) form the backbone of the economy, rewards in the finance sector are increasingly disproportionate and undeserving.

This arises from the concentration of political and market power in the finance sector, rather than from the sector’s greater contribution to economic growth.

In the Celtic Tiger years, the wealth of the country was hijacked by the ineptly regulated failing banks, with the collusion of some senior politicians and business barons, leaving a carcass for the rest to pick over.

This is the setting where our young people feel powerless and at a loss as to know where their lives are taking them.

Many leave the sorting house of school with little hope of employment or a place in third level institutions.

This is a very debasing world, where so many struggle to preserve their dignity and self-confidence.

Philip O’Neill

Oxford, OX1 4B, England

Politics is still a man’s world

I note that in her article (Irish Independent November 24) Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald didn’t mention the name of one other woman in the entire world who provides an example of the type of female leadership she is talking about when she called for more women in politics.

There have been plenty of female leaders in all sorts of different countries – particularly in countries were equality is vastly below any western country – yet when it boils down to it, are any of those women any different to the men they replaced. Are the lives of women in India, Pakistan or elsewhere any better for having had women leaders?

In the case of Ireland, what type of woman does she mean when she says she is creating a ‘talent bank’ of women to serve on state boards, presumably for positions that are never advertised and appointed following a public and transparent process?

Some change that’ll be, and what’s the bet that all of the women chosen will just happen to have links with Fine Gael and Labour.

Perhaps the reason the Irish public is not as keen, as Ms Fitzgerald would like, on choosing candidates based on their gender, is because there is no evidence, in the Irish context at least, that the women who do get through the political system turn out to be any different to the men.

The various women who held senior office over the last two or three decades are as responsible for the mess the country is in as any of their male counterparts who protect us from more women like Heather Humphreys.

Desmond FitzGerald

Canary Wharf, London

Irish Independent


November 24, 2014

24 November 2014 Sharland

I still have arthritis in my left toe I am stricken with gout. But I manage to get to do the housework and Sharland comes to call.

Mary’s back much better today, breakfast weight down fish for tea and her tummy pain is still there but decreasing.


Squadron Leader Terry Bulloch was a bomber pilot known as ‘The Bull’ who was the leading U-boat hunter of the Battle of the Atlantic

Squadron Leader Terry Bulloch in front of his Liberator aircraft

Squadron Leader Terry Bulloch in front of his Liberator aircraft

7:25PM GMT 23 Nov 2014


Squadron Leader Terry Bulloch, who has died aged 98, was a pilot in Coastal Command who made the greatest number of sightings and attacks against German U-boats during the Battle of the Atlantic. By the end of the war he had been credited with sinking four, twice the number by any other pilot.

Due to the lack of long-range aircraft in 1941 and early 1942, sinkings of Allied shipping by German U-boats in the mid-Atlantic had reached alarming proportions. The introduction into RAF service of the American-built B-24 Liberator finally closed this “Atlantic Gap” and gave added protection to the essential convoys sailing from North American ports to the United Kingdom.

In December 1942, Bulloch, known throughout Coastal Command as “The Bull”, was in charge of a small detachment of No 120 Squadron in Iceland and, by this time, he had already developed a reputation as one of the most determined and successful U-boat hunters. On December 8, he and his crew took off from Reykjavik in their Liberator to fly a convoy patrol; 16 hours later they landed after one of the most remarkable operational wartime flights by an RAF aircraft — its like would never be repeated.

Two large convoys had left Halifax in Nova Scotia and were approaching an area where naval intelligence estimated that a U-boat “Wolf Pack” of 14 submarines was lurking in wait (post-war analysis established that there were 22). Bulloch intercepted convoy HX 217 and took up a position astern to counter a known U-boat tactic of shadowing a convoy whilst others from the pack converged.

The weather was poor but Bulloch’s amazing eyesight picked up the wake of a surfaced U-boat and he dived to attack. The submarine commenced a crash dive but it was too late and Bulloch straddled it with six depth charges. There was a great upheaval of water and oil, wreckage and bodies soon floated to the surface. A Norwegian Navy corvette escorting the convoy investigated and confirmed the sinking.

Soon after this success, Bulloch spotted two more U-boats and he attacked one with his two remaining depth charges forcing the submarine to dive. This was Bulloch’s twenty-second sighting of a U-boat (he had attacked twelve) far more than most squadrons had achieved, or ever did. However, this unique flight was not over.

Before it was time for him to depart, Bulloch and his crew sighted another five submarines. With no depth charges remaining, he dived and attacked each with his four Hispano 20mm cannons. On every occasion he forced the submarines to dive and abandon their attacks.

Squadron Leader Terry Bulloch, seated centre, with his outstanding Liberator crew

A second Liberator arrived to relieve Bulloch and it continued the attacks forcing five more U-boats to dive. The attackers had been thrown into disarray and their positions revealed to the escorting naval forces who engaged them. Just two of the 90 ships were lost from the convoys.

Bulloch was awarded a Bar to a DSO that had been gazetted four weeks earlier. Some of his outstanding crew were also decorated, including a DSO to his navigator and a DFM to the flight engineer.

The national press in the UK and in Canada gave extensive coverage to the events, with headlines of “The Bull gets a U-boat” and “Sub smashers win 5 awards in big convoy fight”. An official Coastal Command report concluded, “the convoys were brought safely to port in the face of the most determined opposition yet encountered”.

Terence Malcolm Bulloch was born February 19 1916 in Lisburn, County Antrim and he attended Campbell College Belfast where he was the piper sergeant major in the Officer Training Corps and an excellent rugby player.

He joined the RAF on a short service commission in 1936 and trained as a pilot before flying Ansons in Coastal Command. By early 1940 he had transferred to No 206 Squadron to fly the twin-engined Hudson, patrolling the French, Dutch and Belgian coastal areas, including a number of hazardous trips during the evacuation of the BEF from Dunkirk. He attacked and damaged a German floatplane forcing it to land on the sea where he then bombed it. He also bombed the Channel ports being used in Hitler’s preparations to invade England in September 1940.

At the end of the year, he was awarded the DFC, which was soon followed by a mention in despatches.

Rather than have a rest, Bulloch joined the RAF’s Ferry Command in Canada and flew four-engine bombers across the Atlantic to British airfields. On one occasion, flying a B-17 Fortress, he took just over eight hours to reach Prestwick in Scotland, a record flight across the Atlantic at that time.

With the arrival of the B-24 Liberators, some of which Bulloch had delivered, No 120 Squadron was formed at Nutts Corner, Belfast and Bulloch joined as a flight commander.

On October 21 1941, Bulloch made the squadron’s first attack against a U-boat but abandoned it briefly to attack a shadowing Focke Wulf 200 Kondor aircraft that was shadowing the convoy he was protecting. The Kondor left the area rapidly and Bulloch resumed his hunt for the submarine. He spotted a periscope and dived to attack with three depth charges. The attack was inconclusive and he was credited with a “damaged”.

Over the next nine months of patient patrolling, Bulloch made six more U-boat sightings. He damaged U-59 as it returned to Brest and, two days later, he seriously damaged U-653, forcing it to return to Brest where it spent six months being repaired.

In September he was in Iceland and on October 12 he achieved his, and the squadron’s, first confirmed “kill”. His depth charges virtually blew U-597 out of the water and it was last seen tipping vertically before disappearing.

Bulloch’s attack on the U-boat U-597 which he sank

Over the next two weeks he sighted and attacked four more submarines and on November 5 he sighted another two. Attacking one of them from bow to stern, his aim was accurate and his depth charges destroyed U-132. He was awarded a Bar to his DFC, the citation commenting, “his power of leadership is outstanding”.

After his memorable sortie of December 8, he became an instructor but took the opportunity to test new equipment, including a battery of eight rockets fitted to the nose of his aircraft. He was attached to No 224 Squadron and, on July 8 1943, he was on patrol near Cape Finisterre when he spotted the conning tower of a submarine in the wake of a fishing boat. He attacked and fired his eight rockets in pairs from fifty feet. He pulled up and re-attacked with his depth charges. U-514 outbound to South African waters was destroyed with all hands.

At the end of his tour, Bulloch refused to be rested and he joined a long-range transport squadron flying converted Liberators across the Atlantic. Later he flew with a special RAF transport squadron on routes across the Pacific. Towards the end of the war, he was seconded to BOAC and after his release from the RAF in July 1946 he joined the airline as a captain. He had logged over 4,500 flying hours by the time the war ended.

Bulloch joined BOAC’s prestigious Trans-Atlantic service and was to spend almost all his long career with BOAC and British Airways (BA) flying over the ocean he knew so well. Initially he flew converted bombers and progressed to the elegant Constellation and the less elegant Stratocruiser. He shunned all offers to be a training captain or to take on managerial duties. He simply wanted to keep flying and he spent many hours at the controls of the jet-powered Boeing 707 before moving on to the Boeing 747.

Squadron Leader Terry Bulloch

On reaching BA’s retirement age, he had flown across the Atlantic 1,113 times. His passion for flying had not diminished so he joined the Portuguese National Airline (TAP) and took command of a Boeing 707 and continued to fly routes across the Atlantic. He finally retired in 1974.

Bulloch was a man of few words but he had a great determination to attack the enemy and, when not flying, which was rare, he spent many hours studying the enemy’s tactics and capabilities. He insisted on total dedication and professionalism from his crew and he was an inspiring captain. Some thought him too forthright and terse but his knowledge, courage and skill, not to mention his unique record, were greatly admired. He had little time for authority and less for paperwork and bureaucracy but he was a man of compelling honesty and integrity.

After so much travelling for almost 40 years, in retirement he devoted himself to his garden and to his local golf club at Denham.

A colleague wrote his biography, Coastal Ace (1986).

Terry Bulloch first wife, Joan, died in 1969. His second wife, Linda, who he married in 1974, survives him.

Squadron Leader Terry Bulloch, born February 19, 1916 , died November 13 2014



Heavens above! Emily Thornberry is the product of a working-class council estate. The true test of what she thinks about ordinary working people is to be found in the fact that after she joined the middle classes as a barrister, she joined the Labour Party, not the Conservatives. Her downfall, prompted by her tweeting a photo of a home decked in England flags, is her characteristically English wry sense of radical humour.

The “white van man’’ is a recent much-loved icon of an ironic English humour, which stretches from Hogarth to Mock the Week. Ms Thornberry’s image of the house, the van and the large St George flags is worthy of Hogarth. It signals her evident dismay that the voters of Rochester had fallen under the spell of a disingenuous, camouflaged, neo-Thatcherite tribute party, led by an enterprising former public schoolboy and former City trader, which has the £ sign in its title, suggesting a new country to be called “Poundland”.

Ms Thornberry was highly effective in dealing with Tory propagandists. Ordinary working- and lower-middle-class people need her badly to put the Labour Party case for a fairer and more rational Britain that represents their interests – something in which she clearly believes – rather than the pantomime pretences of Thatcherite Ukip.

On behalf of all working- and middle-class Britain I say, come back Emily Thornberry, we have need of thee!

Robert Faber

London N2

In his self-congratulatory column in Saturday’s Independent, Nigel Farage seems to have confused listening to the concerns of voters with pandering to their prejudices.

The problem is that politicians lack the courage to tell people the truth: that immigration has generally been beneficial for this country, that immigrants, especially those from the EU, are net contributors to our coffers, and that leaving the EU would be an economic disaster.

Quite why people think that having a pint of beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other is qualification for high political office is beyond me.

While Mr Farage’s simplistic pronouncements may garner votes in the short term, in the long term they will leave voters feeling even more disillusioned, a situation that could be avoided were leaders of other parties prepared to engage in proper debate.

Ian Richards


Amid all the discussions about which parties will gain or lose however many seats in next year’s election, and therefore who is likely to enter a coalition with whom, I have not yet encountered any discussion of the possibility that the only two-party coalition to command a majority in the House of Commons might be Labour and Tory.

What three-party coalition can be envisaged? Tory, SNP and anything? The SNP has already ruled out any deal with the Tories. Tory, Ukip and Lib Dem? You can’t see the last two together. Labour, Lib Dem and SNP seems at least plausible.

Tim Marshall


Analysis of the by-election in Rochester and Strood in terms of the whole electorate of the constituency shows that about two people in ten supported Mark Reckless, three in ten voted for other candidates and five in ten didn’t vote at all. This can hardly be construed as massive support for Ukip. Instead, it raises questions about the state of democracy in Britain today.

Maybe the Conservatives and Labour now regret their stance in the 2011 referendum on voting reform.

Mike Williams

Mathry, Pembrokeshire

Ukip sells the dream that we can turn back time to a green and pleasant land when Spitfires ruled the skies, before we sold off our major industries, and when we reaped the resources of our empire. But it’s all gone. It’s not coming back.

S Matthias

London SE1

I have just been listening to a phone-in on the radio. When a caller was asked why they supported Ukip, the reply was: “People in other EU countries don’t know what it is like to have their children in a classroom where no one speaks any English”. Quite.

Paul Devine

Goring on Thames, Oxfordshire

More wind farms may mean fewer pylons  Alistair Wood (letter, 22 November) says he doesn’t object to wind turbines as such, but does object to pylons. I am afraid the horse has bolted from that stable a long time ago.

The 275 and 400kV super-grid was built in the 1960s, as I recall. He may find it comforting that wind and other renewable sources are less intense sources of energy than conventional power stations and, if distributed widely, could reduce rather than increase the need for National Grid connections.  Indeed, some countries are encouraging local renewable generation, which could reduce it yet further.

I am puzzled by the suggestion that green arguments come from “town and city dwellers”. As it happens, I live in a village considerably smaller than Llanymynech, but that’s not the point. Climate change (and most of the other negative impacts of fossil fuel and nuclear generation) hits the countryside worst, and country dwellers should be (and many are) at least as concerned as city dwellers.

The pattern that I do see is that the most extreme Nimbys are those who have moved from town to country for the nice views and don’t want them spoilt.

Derek Chapman

Warnford, Hampshire

Bonuses merely incentivise risk

As a shareholder, I was recently invited to approve a remuneration package for a chief executive of £1.5m salary plus a bonus package that amounts to more than six times the annual salary. We need to bear in mind that the bankers and captains of industry who receive the bonuses are not entrepeneurs – they do not risk any of their own money, only ours.

Bonuses are wrong for three reasons. Firstly, most brain workers, including many of the employees of the company concerned, do not get offered a bonus and are expected to do their very best for their employer out of a sense of pride and integrity. If this incoming chief executive needs to be bribed with a massive bonus to behave likewise is he or she really the right person for the job?

Secondly, as leader of the team, how can the chief executive with a huge bonus demand, with a straight face, 100 per cent effort from his or her subordinates who are not on bonuses?

Worst of all, bonuses skew risk analysis. If the chief executive perceives that the only way he or she has a chance of making their bonus target is by taking wild risks, then there is no downside in taking them. If the risk fails, the chief executive is no worse off. Contrast the position of an entrepreneur who does risk his or her own money.

Yet we have seen our Tory Chancellor doing his very best to thwart a small effort by the European Union to curb this pernicious practice.

Tony Somers

London SW5

Wear your charitable giving with pride

Just about every week I disagree with Janet Street-Porter and today (22 November) is no exception. Every year I used to give to the Poppy Appeal but didn’t wear a poppy, but then the penny dropped – maybe people seeing my poppy would be reminded or prompted to give themselves.

She says: “Charitable giving has become another way of showing off, incorporating pointless records, wrist bands and ephemera.” Maybe that ephemera and showing off might just raise more money.

Steve Brewer


Safer Cars don’t mean safer driving

I read with interest the article relating to vehicle technology and safety improvements (“En route to even greater safety”, 18 November). The final paragraph observes: “Vehicle safety may have improved enormously,  but there’s still a lot of  work to do.”

I spent 30 years as a traffic patrol police officer, and have been involved in many aspects of road safety since, including speed awareness courses.

I would make the observation that the “work to do” should relate to our skills as a driver, the weakest link in the chain. Generally, our skill base is low, we seldom take additional driver training, we drive at inappropriate speeds, and fail to take responsibility for our actions.

By all means make our vehicles safer, but is it not time that more focus was placed upon the driver’s skills?

Richard Bratton


Did Canada get lost under the snow?

I see that the snow storms sweeping North America are only affecting the USA (“‘Historic’ early freeze sweeps across entire United States”, 20 November). Looking at your maps they stop at its northern border. I assume that the land above wasn’t affected? Or is that country of so little consequence it was not worth mentioning?

David Postlethwaite

Swanage, Dorse


Sir, Richard Kemp argues that a lifting of the restriction on women serving in infantry units will damage the fighting capabilities of the armed forces (“Female soldiers just lack the killer instinct”, Nov 18). He presented a popular mythology regarding women and combat.

The move to overturn the ban on women is long overdue, particularly given the track record of service women in Iraq and Afghanistan, generously acknowledged by Kemp, as well as experiences from other nations. Airing such tired opinions highlights the similarity of this argument to unsubstantiated claims and stereotypes cited in previous objections to ending discrimination based on race and sexuality. Diversity in all forms represents a positive force for modern militaries.

The link between the armed forces and society can only be strengthened when the armed forces better reflect the society from which they are drawn.

It is beyond time to move the debate from whether women should be permitted to serve in all sectors of the military to how this can best be achieved.

The Ministry of Defence and the single services will need to foster a positive environment in order to recruit, motivate and retain the calibre of women they desire, and I recognise the difficulty in addressing the many impediments to integrating women into combat units.

The greatest challenge, however, lies with military commanders who will need to have the courage to overcome the prejudice and the bias of previous generations.

Vix Anderton
Research Fellow, Royal United Services Institute

Sir, Once again the matter of female military fighters in the British armed forces is raised without even Colonel Richard Kemp facing a most unpleasant fact: is anyone in policy making authority prepared to reflect on what would, particularly and undoubtedly happen (Islamic State style) to any captured females?

Female fighters may be cleared, formally or informally, to take their personal chances, but the effect on the fighting ability and morale of male force members — who will instinctively want to defend their female comrades — will be totally destructive.

Keep the ladies well away from the battlefield, please.

Roger Draper
Ruislip, Middlesex

Sir, Colonel Richard Kemp’s concern that women lack the killer instinct does not seem to apply in Vienna where you report that an ice-cream parlour proprietor shot dead two lovers as they didn’t live up to her requirements (News, Nov 18).

Dr John Doherty

Sir, I was about to launch a broadside against Richard Kemp’s rampant sexism and sweeping generalisations, but faced with compelling evidence that many young men have far too much of it, I’m relieved that at least one of the sexes supposedly lacks the killer instinct.

Hillary Crowe
Telford, Shropshire

Sir, If Colonel Richard Kemp is correct and frontline combat remains overwhelmingly based on hand-to-hand combat requiring the killer instinct found only in “few women”, then how does gender relate to the skills needed to direct air strikes? I am sure there are examples to support his view but are they really the general picture?

Richard Titchener
Maldon, Essex

Sir, Richard Kemp’s article is an insult to the memory of those women of the Second World War who fought in the SOE, in the Resistance and at Stalingrad.

Dr Shirley Summerskill
London NW6

Sir, A potential female soldier at interview when asked if she could kill a man, replied “Eventually”.
Don Evans
Inverness, Highland

Sir, For proof that some females have the killer instinct, just go to court martial records. There you will find examples of female service personnel who have been convicted of inflicting actual and grievous bodily harm (and worse) on their male colleagues.

Robert Steel
Salisbury, Wilts

Waxwings stay ahead of bad weather

Jack Hill/Times Newspapers

Share via

  • Waxwings stay ahead of bad weather Jack Hill/Times Newspapers

Derwent May

Published at 12:01AM, November 24 2014

The annual invasion of waxwings from Scandinavia is beginning. These birds, about the size of a starling, get their name from a red blob like sealing-wax that they have on their wing. But this is not their most conspicuous feature, which is their jaunty, swept-back crest. They are also striking in other ways, with pinkish plumage, a black mask and bib, yellow bars next to the red blob on their wings, and a yellow-tipped tail. They are also very tame birds, coming down to feed on cotoneaster and other berries in the bushes that adorn roundabouts and supermarket car parks. They gobble up the berries very fast. Only a few of them, mostly ones and twos, have been seen so far, and these have been in Scotland and the eastern counties of England, though some had reached Wiltshire by yesterday. In the winter of 2008-09, there was an enormous invasion of them, which reached most of the country. A survey has been conducted at supermarkets in some years to see which had the most. Morrisons has generally been the winner. It is too early to say if there will be enough waxwings this winter to make a poll worth while.

Sir, After his party was beaten in Rochester, Matthew Parris (Opinion, Nov 22) again demonstrates that he has the nasty party instincts at heart. To effectively accuse 16,867 Ukip voters in Rochester of being identifiable with fascist blackshirts (there was even a picture of Mosley) is deeply offensive. I lost close family fighting Hitler’s fascists as did many in the Medway town’s front line.
Peter Mason-Apps
Knowl Hill, Berks

Sir, Labour continues to fight a class war while its core supporters are more concerned about loss of national identity (leading article, Nov 22).

This has as much to do with the influence of Brussels as immigration, and Ukip has exploited this to great effect. Emily Thornberry’s tweet merely makes matters worse.
Bernard Kingston
Biddenden, Kent

Sir, Why is Nigel Farage always photographed with or near a glass of beer? How about a nice cup of tea for a change?
Estelle D Davis

Sir, Anybody having difficulty in pronouncing “Mx” (report, Nov 17, and letters) has not spent time reading Superman. I remember these comics in the 1960s, when there was a trickster from a different dimension called “Mr Mxyzptlk”. It gets worse. The only way to send him back to his own dimension was to trick him to say his name backwards. “Kltpzyxm”.
Dr Nigel Heard
Great Barrow, Chester

Sir, Daniel Finkelstein’s son is certainly many decades younger than me so I was puzzled by his reported use of the word “skills” to express approbation (Opinion, Nov 19). In my boyhood in the early 1940s “skill” — in the singular — did the job of the all-purpose “cool” relied on by today’s teenagers to express admiration of possessions and achievements. Was it local to my circle of friends? And what other such terms have been and gone over the years?
David Brancher
Abergavenny, Monmouthshire

Sir, If M Hollande’s “discreet” dalliance merits two pages, and a leader column too (Nov 22), it is alarming to contemplate the consequences had he been indiscreet.
Lindsay GH Hall
Theale, Berks

Sir, You ask “How does Monsieur le President do it?” (Leader, Nov 22). The same way as our very own Prince of Wales did it.
Peter Bradshaw


The Government is not fulfilling its National Plan for Music

All together now: children learn the ukulele at Llandogo primary school, near Monmouth

All together now: children learn the ukulele at Llandogo primary school, near Monmouth Photo: Alamy

6:59AM GMT 23 Nov 2014


SIR – In 2011 the Government announced an inspiring initiative, the National Plan for Music, to ensure all children, whatever their background, would get a good music education and the opportunity to learn an instrument.

However, this promise is not being met and recent studies show serious cause for concern. A sector-wide report from the exam board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) revealed that 40 per cent of British children from more disadvantaged backgrounds who have never played an instrument said they had no opportunity to learn at school. A Paul Hamlyn Foundation review this summer found that in primary schools, only half of music teachers surveyed said they had the necessary resources. Research for James Rhodes’s Don’t Stop the Music television series chimed with these reports, and identified significant problems with teacher training, funding and progression opportunities – issues often raised by the sector.

Music has proven benefits for children – building confidence, teamwork and discipline, and encouraging improvements in literacy and numeracy. But music can easily be undervalued in an already crowded curriculum – a situation worsened by the lack of attention paid to it in regular Ofsted inspections.

The Government must fulfil its commitment and end the inequality of opportunity in school music.

Yours faithfully,

James Rhodes

Concert Pianist and Champion of the Don’t Stop the Music campaign

Professor Colin Lawson
Director, Royal College of Music

Russell Hobby
General Secretary, National Association of Head Teachers

Julian Lloyd Webber
Founder of In Harmony


Jeremy Newton
CEO, Prince’s Foundation for Children & the Arts

Richard Hallam
Chair, The Music Education Council

Anthony Bowne
Principal, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance

Professor David Saint
Principal, Birmingham Conservatoire

Katherine Zeserson
Director of Learning and Participation, Sage Gateshead

Professor Joe Wilson
Director of Curriculum, Leeds College of Music

Deborah Annetts
Chief Executive, Incorporated Society of Musicians

Jem Shuttleworth
General Manager, The UK Association for Music Education – Music Mark

Sarah Alexander
Chief Executive and Artistic Director, National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain

Ian Maclay
Managing Director, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Christopher Warren-Green
Music Director and Principal Conductor, London Chamber Orchestra

Marianna Hay
Artistic Director and Founder, National Orchestra for All

Janie Orr
Chief Executive, EMI Music Sound Foundation

Dr Mary Bousted
General Secretary, Association of Teachers and Lecturers

Alison Balsom

Kathryn Tickell

Maestro Vladimir Ashkenazy

Bob and Roberta Smith, Artist

Professor Graham F Welch
Chair of Music Education, Institute of Education

Kevin Brennan MP (Lab)
Shadow Minister for Schools

Lord Lipsey
Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group on Classical Music

Lord Aberdare
Member, All-Party Parliamentary Group on Music Education

The EU’s political crisis; the use of medicinal methadone; the choices facing migrants in Calais; hidden cost of payday advertisements; and Sainsbury’s Christmas spirit

UK economy expected to show growth in third quarter

The burden of EU regulation can prove costly for British businesses Photo: ALAMY

7:00AM GMT 23 Nov 2014


SIR – Juergen Maier, the chief executive of Siemens UK, says membership of the EU is good for business, but his reasoning appears to be as fallacious as that of business leaders who once forecast economic disaster if Britain failed to join the Economic and Monetary Union.

Despite Mr Maier’s attempts to downplay the burden of EU regulation, the economist Professor Tim Congdon estimated last year that it was costing British business £150 billion annually. Jeremy Warner observes that the EU is failing – paralysed by political crisis and a malfunctioning monetary union.

Shouting from the sidelines will not bring European prosperity, says Mr Maier. Nor it, seems, will the EU.

D R Taylor
Everton, Hampshire

23 Nov 2014

SIR – Mr Maier implies that, if we were to leave the EU, British exporters would have to worry about “complying with 28 different reels of red tape”. However, he also asserts that Norway is able to trade with the EU through a “fax democracy”, implementing Brussels regulations from a distance.

Of course, Norway has no say in the formulation of those regulations, but, based on Britain’s inability to resist the EU’s relentless onslaught on the City of London, one wonders what having any real influence actually looks like.

Norway and Switzerland have struck deals with the EU because they have things the EU needs – fish and rail and road transit routes, respectively. But Britain’s trump cards are even stronger. Apart from being the only practical transit route for most trade between the Republic of Ireland and continental Europe – with roads currently provided toll-free, courtesy of British taxpayers – Britain is also the EU’s biggest export market.

If, as we are constantly reminded, three million British jobs depend on our EU membership, how many more on the continent must depend on Britain – because we buy far more from them than they buy from us? I’m sure they won’t want to upset that apple cart in a hurry.

Tony Stone
Oxted, Surrey

SIR – Is there no end to EU interference? Mr Maier thinks the union is good for business, but this cannot be the case when one has to read thousands of pages of regulations. Small businesses stay small to remain exempt and avoid the hassle.

Hazel Prowse
Camberley, Surrey

SIR – I was pleased to read that a great number of British businesses wish to renegotiate the terms of the European Union.

Those in business know that in order to achieve success they need to be better than their competitors. Therefore, they also need the freedom to accomplish this. Being tied to a large organisation like the EU, with its various obstructions and petty rules, prevents real competition.

Unless we leave the EU we will fail, as so many of the businesses in Europe are doing currently. Let us remember that trading with other countries is one thing, but to be ruled by them is something else entirely.

B E Norton
Royal Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire

SIR – Christopher Booker – one of our Britain’s best investigative journalists – reveals a curious dichotomy between his call to leave the European Union and, on the same page, his mention of parents who have turned to Brussels in their hour of need, claiming that their children were wrongly removed from them.

According to Tatyana Zdanoka, a member of the European Parliament committee that recently heard evidence of such cases, Britain is “unique in Europe in the secrecy of its family courts”.

The EU is about much more than economic benefits; it is also a partnership of shared social values. The case of family courts is a poignant example of this.

Clifford Russell
Hallwood Green, Gloucester

Tax should be about percentage of income

SIR – It is all very well indicating that 0.01 per cent contribute 4.2 per cent of income tax, whereas the poorest 9 million contribute less than 4 per cent. But this, of course, ignores National Insurance, VAT, fuel tax and other unfair imposts, such as hospital car park charges, which bear down most on the 9 million.

It’s not what you pay, so much as what you are left with to live upon, that counts. If you are earning £2.7 million and are left with £1.35 million then you can still live pretty well, despite a 50 per cent tax levy.

This is not a plea for higher taxes necessarily, just for more balance and fairness on all sides of the political spectrum.

Alan Miller
Silsoe, Bedfordshire

Asylum in France

French police escort migrants back to the camp in Calais

SIR – The executive director of Doctors of the World UK confirms that migrants in Calais would rather perish than return to their country of origin (Letters, November 16). There is a simple solution: they should apply for asylum in France where they are now resident.

France has many historic ties with the Middle East and was given a mandate for Syria after the First World War.

Hugh Foster
Farnborough, Hampshire

Medicinal methadone

SIR – The Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, urges the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) to look again at its findings on rehabilitation and encourage addicts to “practise abstinence” rather than being “parked for years on methadone”.

The ACMD recently advised against putting a time limit on prescriptions of opiate substitutions, while emphasising the need for patients to receive talking therapies and other recovery support.

For many people who are dependent on heroin, medication like methadone can help them to become stable enough to rebuild relationships, improve their physical and mental health, stop committing crime and seek employment.

Evidence strongly suggests that imposing an artificial time limit on opiate substitution medication would lead to significant unintended consequences, such as relapse and more deaths from overdose.

Overcoming addiction is never easy or straightforward, nor does “recovery” look the same for everyone.

Dr Marcus Roberts
Chief Executive, DrugScope
London SE1

Careless driving

SIR – Your article on the inability of courts to pass appropriate sentences for careless driving will strike a chord with most lawyers.

The problem lies in the way politicians react to loud campaigns by pressure groups instead of thinking things through. Courts impose prison terms on people whose momentary lapse – of which any of us could be guilty – leads to a death, whereas those guilty of seriously careless driving get away with a fine simply because, by sheer chance, no one dies.

If we punished according to the degree of bad driving rather than the often arbitrary outcome, we might restore some faith in this aspect of criminal justice.

John O’Donnell
Preston, Lancashire

GCHQ is no Bletchley

SIR – David Blunkett invokes the spirit of the Bletchley Park code-breakers in support of the GCHQ’s call for more co-operation from communications companies. This is a misguided comparison at best.

Bletchley Park workers decoded field military signals leading to real tactical military advantage at a time of world war and potential invasion. In peacetime, GCHQ monitors all of our phone calls, browsing data and emails, without parliamentary oversight.

Even so, it has been taken by surprise by all recent major geopolitical events, including the Arab Spring, the Russian resurgence and the rise of Isil.

P D Kirk
London W2

Payday advertising damages families

SIR – According to a survey by the Children’s Society, one in three children aged 10-17 sees payday loan advertisements regularly. These make borrowing money seem easy and fun to children, which increases the pressure on parents to take out high-interest loans.

As credit repayments take up a larger proportion of income, families can find themselves cutting back on essentials. Children can suffer anxiety and bullying as a result of their family’s financial problems.

Children should learn about borrowing and debt from their school and family, not from irresponsible payday loan advertising. The law should be changed to ban these advertisements from television and radio before the 9pm watershed.

When the Consumer Rights Bill is debated in the House of Lords this week, we hope fellow peers will support our amendment.

Rt Rev Timothy Thronton
Bishop of Truro
Lord Mitchell (Lab)
Lord Alton (Crossbench)

London SW1

Undiluted worship

SIR – We have many beautiful cathedrals and churches, some in lovely settings. These, with their wonderful history, their celebration of special occasions and their music and hymns, should be the stars of BBC’s Songs of Praise (Letters, November 16). The splendid Remembrance Sunday service from Aldershot, featured on the programme, was an excellent example of this.

Please can we have our Songs of Praise back, undiluted?

R M Watkinson

Far from Ghent

SIR – Perhaps Alan Titchmarsh’s article (The heart of the matter, Lifestyle, November 16) best illustrates the dangers of learning poetry by heart without looking at the content.

The “Aix” he recalls from Robert Browning’s poem is of course Aix-la-Chapelle, not Aix-en-Provence.

Hugh Rivington
Brettenham, Suffolk

Wind ensemble

SIR – During a practice with my barbershop acappella chorus group, prior to performing at the Birmingham Symphony Hall (Letters, November 16), we were given one last piece of advice: to take care with our diet during the week before the performance.

We were told that if anybody broke wind while we were on stage, it would be heard at the back of the hall.

Cath Klaces
Broughton, Flintshire

Christmas spirit

SIR – There is some criticism of Sainsbury’s four-minute Christmas television advert, which is based on the 1914 game of football played in no-man’s-land between young combatants from opposing trenches during the First World War.

Despite its underlying commercial purpose, surely its theme of peace, friendship and giving is to be applauded – particularly at Christmas.

John Ley-Morgan
Weston-super-Mare, Somerset

Live and let diet

SIR – If one has to cut down on calories, sugar, salt, fat and alcohol, why would one want to live to 120?

Donald A Wroe
Bouth, Lancashire

Irish Times:

Sir, – On December 2nd, we are being asked by our union to go on strike relating to something that we are already practicing in our school. St Joseph’s College, Lucan, is a pilot school for the Junior Cycle. Over the past three years we have not only changed our approach to student learning but also introduced ongoing assessment for students at Junior and Leaving Certificate levels. If I were to assess the new changes according to the way we give feedback to our students, I would say “Two Stars and a Wish”.

Star one: Ongoing assessment gives immediate positive feedback to students in September and throughout the term. The teacher can assess the learning and any student who is struggling with learning can be helped. Confidence grows and the outlook of the student improves.

Star two: Students must be responsible for their learning – they learn about deadlines, drafting and redrafting and self-evaluation. Students are so engaged in learning that discipline problems no longer feature.

Wish: Teachers need more time to collaborate on assessment and the work that this involves. The day of taking a bundle of exams home to correct by yourself has now passed.

I trust teachers assessing the students; the students trust their teachers. The parents have faith in the teachers; teachers are professional and expert. We also trust the State Examinations Commission, which will monitor this assessment. We have waited for decades for change in assessment. Should memory be the only skill we continue to value in our students? – Yours, etc,



St Joseph’s College,

Lucan, Co Dublin.

Sir, – All that teachers seek, within the complex set of relationships which frames their professional lives, is the gold standard of external assessment which removes even the slightest risk of their being suspected of conferring any unfair advantage or disadvantage on any student at an important moment in their life. – Yours, etc,


Donabate, Co Dublin.

Sir, – We wish to make it clear that while the second-level teacher unions are seeking to maintain State certification and external assessment, we are in favour of changes to enhance the Junior Cycle and support the introduction of new forms of assessment, as long as these assessment components are externally marked.

We agree with the Minister for Education and Skills that project work, portfolio work, practical work and other methods of evaluating student learning are vital elements of a modern assessment system. We also agree that broadening assessment in this way may help to reduce the pressure associated with having only a terminal written exam. However, in order to maintain the integrity of our State certificate, we believe all State exams, whether written or practical, should be externally assessed.

Forcing teachers to grade their own students for State certification will have a negative impact on the student-teacher relationship and will lead to inconsistencies between schools, thereby undermining educational standards nationally.

Currently, a number of Junior Certificate subjects have practical exam components that are externally assessed. For example, the Junior Cert science exam contains a significant practical element which is externally assessed. Other subjects such as CSPE (Civic, Social and Political Education), home economics, music and art also include significant practical elements which are externally assessed. This means that students’ work in these exams is subjected to a rigorous and standardised external assessment process overseen by the State Examinations Commission which ensures consistency, fairness and objectivity for every student.

Just like parents and students, teachers want an improved education experience for our Junior Cycle students. However, teachers are deeply concerned about the negative impact of the Minister’s current proposals. Such far-reaching change cannot be easily undone, so we must get it right from the start. We regret that we must resort to strike action in order to stand up for education. However, we have exhausted all other avenues to date.

We believe a solution exists which meets the need for improvement of the Junior Cycle, but which protects education standards, is student-centred, and which does not undermine the integrity of our State exams system. – Yours, etc,


President, ASTI,

Thomas McDonagh House,

Winetavern Street,

Dublin 8;


President, TUI,

Orwell Road,Dublin 6.

Sir, – Senator John Crown has asked Minister of State Kathleen Lynch TD to look into the recent decision by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI) to increase the retention fee paid by nurses (“2,000 nurses, midwives protest over rise in registration fee”, November 18th).

This increase means the fee has risen by 80 per cent in just two years. Nursing has been the only health profession to be targeted for such an increase.

Having been a nurse for many years, working both in Ireland and abroad, I am used to paying the annual retention fees that allowed me to practice as a registered nurse.

However, when working in the UK, and the US, I was not only expected to pay my retention fee, but also to provide evidence of my ongoing relevant education and competence.

I understood that ensuring I and all of my nursing and midwifery colleagues were competent to practice was the key reason for paying retention fees, and we were happy to pay for this service.

However, the NMBI requests the annual fee but does not check the competence of the nurses and midwives they register as regards being fit to practice.

Rather, they use fees to hold fitness-to-practice inquiries, after a professional incident has occurred. A case of too little too late. I am astonished that the professional competence assurance scheme, which is a statutory duty of the board that was set up by legislation three years ago, has still not been implemented.

Why would nurses or midwives feel they should pay anything for this lack of service? –Yours, etc,


Toronto, Canada.

Sir, – This week Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney, in answer to a Dáil question from Maureen O’Sullivan TD, dismissed the introduction of mechanical lure coursing as a humane alternative to using timid wild hares as bait for the chasing greyhounds. The hare coursers have told him that it doesn’t work because the greyhounds, they claim, lose interest after following the lure “once or twice”.

On the say-so of the hare coursers, Mr Coveney will not countenance this humane alternative to hare coursing, which does in fact work, and says he has no plans to ban live hare coursing.

The coursers’ claim that greyhounds will not consistently follow a mechanical lure is totally absurd, as presently greyhounds pursue a mechanical lure, time after time, on the greyhound tracks. And in Australia, where live hare coursing has been banned for decades, mechanical lure coursing is now successfully used. And there have been drag coursing events held here in Ireland, one of which was in Listry, Co Killarney, in March 2013, where we filmed greyhounds enthusiastically following the drag. We sent this footage to the Minister, clear and unequivocal evidence that drag works successfully, but our evidence it seems fell not only on deaf ears, but closed eyes. So there is absolutely no excuse for the barbarity that is live hare coursing in this day and age. The Australians and others accepted the ban and moved on to mechanical lure coursing, and the sky didn’t fall in.

The ban on smoking in public places wasn’t countenanced at first and there was much resistance but today nobody yearns for smoke-filled pubs.

Replacing live hare coursing with a mechanical lure would find favour with the vast majority who respect and cherish our Irish hare and who would be more than happy to see the end of a despicable blood sport that brings shame on our country. – Yours, etc,


Irish Council

Against Blood Sports,

PO Box 88,

Mullingar, Co Westmeath.

Mon, Nov 24, 2014, 01:04

First published: Mon, Nov 24, 2014, 01:04

Sir, – Ian Kenneally’s excellent article “Press was intimidated in War of Independence” (Weekend, November 15th) has outlined the intimidation suffered by the Irish Independent during the War of Independence. May I point out that its great rival in the daily newspaper market at that time, the Freeman’s Journal, was also the victim of republican violence? This was arguably an even greater outrage since it occurred after the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty and was clearly designed to subvert the democratic will of Dáil Éireann in regard to the Treaty.

On March 29th, 1922 (in the hiatus between the signing of the Treaty and the outbreak of the Civil War), the Freeman’s Journal’s printing plant was destroyed by a raiding party of anti-Treatyite IRA because they objected to an article about a convention of their military council held two days earlier. The Freeman responded in a spirited fashion. A much reduced version of the newspaper was produced on Gestetner machines as a stop-gap in the following weeks, until it resumed normal production on April 22th.

With hindsight, many anti-Treatyites came to recognise that it had been a bad mistake to attempt to suppress the Freeman. The effect of that and other similar occurrences was to associate the anti-Treaty side with military dictatorship and censorship – to give the impression that, as the prominent republican Todd Andrews later wrote, people “were liable to be pushed around at the whim of young IRA commanders’”. This tended to strengthen popular support for the Free State government.

The destruction of the Freeman’s plant cast a long shadow. As late as 1976, in a speech about the Criminal Law Bill introduced by the then Fine Gael-Labour coalition government, the parliamentary secretary to the taoiseach, John Kelly, referred to it when dismissing a claim by Charles Haughey that a section of the Bill could give rise to press censorship. That claim, Kelly opined, was “brazen unscrupulousness” – and then he said this: “I may recall that on only one occasion since the Treaty was a newspaper literally put out of action because its politics were unacceptable – in 1922, when the printing works of the Freeman’s Journal were smashed up . . . This thoroughly fascist act was not committed by anyone in the Cosgrave tradition, but by the ‘Republicans’ from whom Mr Haughey’s party proudly trace their descent.” – Yours, etc,


Dublin 18.

Sir, – Conradh na Gaeilge is concerned about the lack of Irish in the official Ireland 2016 website. Its criticism would be more appropriately directed at the ghosts of the signatories of the 1916 Proclamation.

Apart from the perfunctory cúpla focal in the heading, Poblacht na hÉireann, the document is entirely in English. Only two of the seven signatories, Seán Mac Diarmada and Eamonn Ceannt, have their names in Irish. The president of the provisional government, who was the most prolific language revival advocate, signs himself “P.H. Pearse”, and this is the form he uses in the bulletins issued during Easter Week.

But then, English has always been the predominant language of Irish nationalism. – Yours, etc,


Emeritus Professor

of Irish History,

University College Cork.

Sir, – I would never have viewed myself as a political protester, but rather as a human rights protester. I protest when I see injustice.

This Government and previous ones have consistently hammered the less fortunate, the vulnerable, the sick and disabled people. These groups have finally declared “enough is enough”.

The water protesters are ordinary people who have woken up. They see capitalism favouring only the rich and foresaw Irish water being privatised to favour the top echelons of society.

It is the water protesters who have “seen the light” and it behoves any government of whatever hue to take notice when people say “enough is enough”. – Yours, etc,



Co Wicklow.

Sir, – I suggest that Ireland and the rest of the European Union follow Sweden’s example in recognising the state of Palestine while there is still a Palestine left to recognise. – Yours, etc,



Co Clare.

Irish Independent:

The culture of our schools and the teaching profession have changed dramatically over the last 15 years.

Second-level education is focusing on the life skills that our young people will require in the future – resilience, self-management and management of information, among other things. We are trying to move away from a ‘schooling’ which promotes over-dependency among students to an education which promotes independent learning and more student engagement.

To that end, teachers are engaging in new teaching methodologies, new technologies, curriculum reform, inspections, school development, evaluation and improvement initiatives.

Schools are looking at different ways of tracking student performance and learning outcomes. Focused opportunities for continuous professional development are more widely available and teachers are engaged in whole-school planning and development. We have begun teaching the new specification in Junior Cycle English.

A change in our approach to assessment is part of the change in culture and is happening on the ground in classrooms in primary and secondary schools. It is teacher led, and it too is contributing to the growing professionalism of teaching, and to improved learning outcomes for students. It is in line with best international practice.

It is a truly vibrant and dynamic time to be involved in education. Our classrooms are active, fun learning environments – different in many ways to when I started my teaching career.

The concerns of the teaching unions need to be addressed but I hope that they can meet the challenges of these new and most welcome developments in Irish education and not allow them to be bogged down in negative discourse.

Patricia Gordon


Stratford College

Rathgar, Dublin 6

Have the helicopter ready, Enda

It’s 25 years since the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu went to the balcony of his party headquarters to address his people, and finally realised that they weren’t waving in joyful support, but in rage. Even then, as his summary court martial was under way, and later as he was taken to be shot, he was utterly convinced that the liberators, and firing squad in particular, were in big trouble for defying the almighty leader.

Enda Kenny is no Ceausescu, but he is desperately out of touch with a people that aren’t willing to bow down and kiss his feet everywhere he goes.

‘The best little country in the world to be rich and tax avoidant’, is a political philosophy that seems to have comforted Enda Kenny as he patrols the stock exchanges and glossy high-tech company product launches of the world. But, back home, under the austerity balcony made by this coalition government, the general population are seething with anger. They can’t and won’t be silenced .

Enda won’t face a literal firing squad here, but he should get his metaphorical helicopter ready. The people are not cheering Enda, they’re enraged and they won’t be going away.

Declan Doyle

Lisdowney, Co Kilkenny

Coalition is still drowning

The Government is drowning in the water charge controversy. People are not fooled.

Why did the Government not just fix the leaky pipes instead of installing meters? It is not bothered by the wastage, be it wastage of water or wastage of money. It is clear to the people that Irish Water is a vehicle to raise money to pay back bondholders.

It is also being set up so the Government can raise funds by privatising this utility in the future. This is perhaps the greatest fear amongst the people.

Perhaps the best way of commemorating the 1916 Rising would be to enshrine the protection of the water supply in the constitution of a country that was so hard fought for at that time!

Killian Brennan

Malahide Road, Dublin

Voting in SF will reverse progress

If the people of Ireland think they have problems because of water and property taxes, well I am sorry to say they have an even greater problem after the recent opinion poll.

How in the name of whatever god or no god could 22pc of people think we would be better off with a Sinn Fein government?

Can any of you 22pc tell me what would be better about Sinn Fein if they were in power?

This is a party with no realistic politics and an ambiguous point of view on the investigation of sexual abuse (and does this mean that, by default, the 22pc of the population who expressed support for Sinn Fein in that poll hold the same view?)

This is a party with no room for dissent – no member of the party has ever publicly questioned Gerry Adams about his membership of the IRA.

Mr Adams must be laughing at the Irish people and the fact that he can behave in the way he has over the years, and even more so in the last 12 months, with all of his ridiculous comments, eg his remark about the old IRA holding a gun to the head of the editor of the Irish Independent.

I for one would not live in the country under the present Sinn Fein leadership.

When you are asked your opinion by a market research interviewer, remember this is a serious question – not “who do you think will win ‘The X Factor'” – so please answer it seriously .

Do the people who expressed a preference for Sinn Fein in the poll really think Gerry Adams is a future leader? Would they send him to Europe to discuss our economy with Angela Merkel?

We would be a laughing stock.

Our economy was in ruins in 2011. Now it’s in a far better place. We have all suffered, and continue to suffer a bit, but we are in a far better position now and the future is brighter.

Even the unions have realised that, as they have started talking about pay increases.

Please, people of Ireland, don’t blow all the good work now.

Sinn Fein does not deserve to be anywhere near Government.

Name and address with Editor

Don’t hike deposits – cap loans

It would be lunacy to ask potential buyers to amass a deposit of 20pc for a house, but, in the case of an apartment, the buyer would have to save at least 25pc.

This would force young people to move further away from the city and would unfairly depress apartment prices.

Instead of asking for crazy deposits, why not limit the amount loaned? If this action was taken, it’s likely that the market would correct itself over time.

Instead of asking for 20pc/25pc deposit, ask for 10pc (on a house or apartment) and instead of offering the couple €300k, offer them €250k, which they will be under less pressure to repay. The proposed system is favouring couples who have access to family money.

They will always have an advantage, but it does not give the rest of the young prospective homebuyers any hope.

Eamon Ward

Co Wexford

Joe Schmidt for Taoiseach

I would just like to say thank you to Joe Schmidt for what he has done for Irish rugby. I would like to wish him a speedy recovery too, and would like ask if, when the World Cup is over, would he be prepared to run for Taoiseach?

T G Gavin

Dalkey, Co Dublin

Irish Independent

Post office

November 23, 2014

23 November 2014 Postoffice

I still have arthritis in my left toe I am stricken with gout. But I manage to get to do the housework and I go to the Post Office.

Mary’s back much better today, breakfast weight down nothing for tea and her tummy pain is still there but decreasing.


Trevor Pharo – obituary

Trevor Pharo was a sales executive better known as Bingo the Clown, who brought slapstick and custard pies to Bognor Regis

Trevor Pharo as Bingo The Clown (right) with fellow clown Doni.

Trevor Pharo as Bingo The Clown (right) with fellow clown Doni.

5:16PM GMT 21 Nov 2014


Trevor Pharo, who has died aged 60, was a south coast sales executive who became better known to younger customers as Bingo the Clown.

As Bingo, Pharo made clowning history in 1985 by staging the first ever International Clown Convention, when, for a weekend, the staid seaside town of Bognor Regis became “Clown Town”. Local policemen wore red noses and some 100,000 visitors turned up to watch a huge street parade, led by Bingo, and enjoy seminars in slapstick, tumbling and custard pies given by masters of the craft.

The conventions continued for about a decade until funding ran out, attracting the support of stars such as Ken Dodd, Jeremy Beadle, and Norman Wisdom, who opened the 1988 convention. One year the local council estimated the event had attracted 200,000 visitors and as many as 700 clowns, 300 of whom had flown in on a specially chartered flight from the United States.

Bingo was the first British clown to entertain Arab audiences in Kuwait, and he made numerous stage and television appearances, most notably at the Children’s Royal Variety Show at the Victoria Palace Theatre in 1988.

But his career was not without controversy. In 1989 he was accused by his fellow clown Bluey (alias Blue Brattle) of bringing their calling into disrepute after he had appeared in clown costume on Kilroy to discuss whether clowns were paid enough. He was said to have infringed the rule that a clown should never be serious when wearing motley, though some of his colleagues appear to have reacted badly to his suggestion that some involved in the business were more interested in profits than entertainment. Pharo brushed off suggestions that he should hang up his red nose. “Of course I’m serious from time to time – even if I’m in full make-up,” he said. “I can’t forever be dropping my trousers.”

Trevor Pharo was born at Croydon, Surrey, on April 6 1954 and fell in love with the circus when Billy Smart’s came to town in 1972. After leaving school he helped Smart’s by persuading shopkeepers to put circus posters in their windows and, while working as a graphics and printing supplies salesman, eventually founding his own business, learnt the rudiments of clowning from Billy Gay, the circus’s advance publicity manager who doubled as a clown.

He began to take on weekend clowning jobs at children’s parties and local carnivals and amusement parks. As his reputation grew, he travelled abroad and appeared on stage and television.

He raised large sums for charities, including the Variety Club of Great Britain, the Anthony Nolan Trust, and the children’s charity Dream Flight, giving up his own holidays to accompany planeloads of children, many terminally ill, on a “holiday of a lifetime” to Florida. In 2000 he was presented with an award at an international clown convention for his charitable work.

Trevor Pharo (left) with circus proprietor, Gerry Cottle

In 2009, to raise money for a care centre in Brighton for people with HIV/Aids-related illnesses, he promoted two “adults only” nights of entertainment under the big top of Zippo’s Circus. The shows featured some of the circus’s top stars, led by ringmaster Norman Barrett, alongside a line-up of local cabaret regulars . Music was provided by the Brighton and Hove Gay Men’s Chorus and the “alternative” panto star Robert James, “the Naked Singer”.

Trevor Pharo’s marriage to his wife Angela was dissolved, and in September this year he married his partner, Ian Bromilow, with whom he had lived for 25 years and who survives him with two sons and a daughter of his first marriage.

Trevor Pharo, born April 6 1954, died November 8 2014


occupy london The Occupy London tent protest outside St Paul’s Cathedral. Photograph: Jack MacDonald for the Observer

Bankers keep cheating, but where are the protests?”, (leader). The Occupy movement was one, though smartly driven from the temple-yard of the Stock Exchange on to the cobbles outside St Paul’s.

The occupiers were right and the problem is not limited to banks. Will Hutton half-acknowledges this when he says: “The [banking] industry structure should never have been allowed” and adds: “Companies (in general) are seen by too many people, notably shareholders, as just instruments for self-enrichment.” (“Banking is changing, slowly, but its culture is still corrupt”, Comment.

“Just”? The confusion is at the heart of company law. The banking industry is no more or less committed to customers and community than the food industry is to consumer health or the fossil-fuel extractors to green hills and valleys. Bankers and CEOs are not uniquely greedy, but their job description puts company success and shareholder profit before any other social or environmental interest. The directors’ prime duty under the Companies Act of 2006 is to the success of their company “in a way that benefits the shareholders”.

They must merely “have regard” for other factors – employment, customers and suppliers, community, environment and long-term consequences. Where the choice is between clear-cut profit margins and such a range of ill-defined variables, it’s obvious which side the bosses’ bread is buttered on. Until these social and environmental “regards” are hardened up as duties, clearly defined and structured into company law and practice, no amount of top-down tinkering will redress the legacy of inbuilt injustice or clean up a “corrupt” culture that is just being true to itself.

Greg Wilkinson


Your leader asks why there are no pickets outside the banks, no protests from “ordinary citizens under the economic cosh”. I think I know why: those ordinary citizens have been sold the lie that their economic woes are due to the profligacy of the last government, nothing to do with bankers. Over the page, Will Hutton reminds us how laissez-faire bank regulation facilitates the cheating. If the last government attracts any blame, it is for under-regulation rather than overspending. Is that too nuanced for today’s political debate?

John Filby



There always has been and always will be fraud in financial services but there are ways of making it less attractive to the fraudsters. Really swingeing fines on the banks, fines of, say, 10 times what they have gained would concentrate directors’ and shareholders’ minds. The perpetrators of the frauds ought to face long prison sentences, sequestration of their assets and a lifelong ban on working in financial services. As a last resort, the bankers ought to face having their businesses taken over by the government. That ought to concentrate minds.

Posted online

Not much point in transferring your money from a bank to a credit union – the credit unions all have accounts with the banks. They are not, at present, big enough to be their own banks.And nowadays it is almost impossible for someone to operate without a bank account. Wages, pensions, benefits are all paid into bank accounts. The days of the pension book you took to the post office, or the little brown envelope you got each payday, are gone. The banks have us by the short and curlies and they know it.

Posted online

'Britain Needs A Pay Rise' National Demonstration in London The Britain Needs a Pay Rise demonstration in London. Photograph: Dave Evans/ Demotix/Corbis

Sarah Kwei made a number of important and valid points in her comment piece (Comment). However, I believe a subhead declaring that “It’s the community, not work, that’s the new site of protest” did her arguments a disservice. Journalism and academia have been dominated by ideas of fragmented power and the end of workplace organisation for a decade and more. It is true that we can see a decline in union influence since the 80s but this is not because of the new character of work but because (sadly) of the character of too many trade union leaderships.

Business unionism, so encouraged by those who argued that the working class and workplace organisation have ceased to exist, has allowed big business and their political representatives in the three main parties to drive down real wages and shift the tax burden from the wealthy on to working-class people. My union, the Rail Maritime and Transport Workers Union (RMT), continues to organise successfully in the workplace. The £50K paid to train drivers by many train-operating companies is well publicised but RMT has also fought and ended zero-hours contracts for cleaners on the Tyne & Wear Metro and continues to organise subcontracted cleaners on London Underground behind a demand for £13 an hour.

Where trade unions get out and organise marginalised workers, victories can be won. But I also agree wholeheartedly that a new collaboration between trade unions and community movements is needed. Years ago, that collaboration manifested itself through the Labour party. Those days are gone.

Jared Wood

Political officer, RMT London Transport Regional Council

London NW1

Why I choose not to vote

Barbara Ellen describes me as “bone idle, ill-informed and immature”, (“Democracy matters – use your vote”, Comment).

Her wrath is directed at non-voters, a section of the community that I am very happy to inhabit for several reasons and is based on the  assumption that, should I be unimpressed by all of the candidates I should choose one out of a sense of duty. She conveniently ignores the multitude of politicians who shamelessly abstain from voting on parliamentary debates and bills. I venture to suggest that a minority of these non-voters have genuine reservations, but the majority are abstaining due to nothing more than moral cowardice.

Rather than condemning those of us who weigh up the options and then act accordingly, perhaps she could reflect on the historical consequences of compulsory voting that have resulted in the plethora of elected monsters who have wreaked evil, misery and devastation on our planet.

Andrew Thompson


Landowners need to lay off

Catherine Bennett’s interesting article “The countryside is too vital to leave to its greedy owners” (Comment) argues that large landowners claiming special knowledge of the land are despoiling it with profitable ugly developments. However, as the accompanying picture shows, they have already ruined the landscape itself by ripping out beautiful old hedges and trees and cultivating huge, bleak fields of monocultural grass. Somehow, we need a radical and mandatory programme of land restoration for now and the future.

Tricia Cusack


The other face of Bristol

As a Bristolian born and bred, I did not recognise my city in your article (“Networked and superfast: welcome to Bristol, the UK’s smartest city”, News).  I do get tired of seeing Bristol portrayed almost exclusively in pictures of the suspension bridge, and hearing how the small group of ex-Bristol University alumni, living in Clifton, are making the city swing. There are acres of deprived 50s council estates. The congestion in the city is worse than London and the air quality in many places fails to reach EU standards. Our public transport is a joke. Our council is among the worst in Britain. Our mayor is a tech whiz but he is also presiding over the wholesale destruction of green spaces and prime food-growing land to build an overbridge for the Metrobus scheme. This ill-planned scheme is opposed by most Bristolians except those who will benefit financially. As for super-connection, I live well within the city borders and have to go outside the house to get a mobile signal. The article reinforces the impression that Bristol is a wealthy city, making it hard to attract government help. In fact, there are huge inequalities in quality of life, housing and income.

Jane Ghosh


Driven to heavy sarcasm

Your front-page revelation that the coalition “has helped the rich by hitting (the) poor”, News, has totally disillusioned me. I had imagined that the bedroom tax, cuts in benefits, tighter jobcentre rules, zero-hours contracts, increased VAT and the remorseless fragmentation of our national health and education services, were all part of the coalition strategy to improve everybody’s lot. We are, after all, all in this together, aren’t we?

John Merrigan

East Molesey


Emily Thornberry: lost her shadow cabinet job over a tweet. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA Emily Thornberry: lost her shadow cabinet job over a tweet. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA

Before the Rochester picture affair is allowed to fade, it badly needs some deeper consideration (Labour rocked by ‘sneering’ blunder, 21 November).

A house draped in statements of national allegiance, upstaged by a big white van representing a way of earning a living, is clearly an arresting image, and Emily Thornberry responded accordingly. Her caption was factual, minimal and comment-free. The household concerned decided to put this striking image into the public domain, so can have no complaint. The result was an instant witchhunt conducted by a political party leader who aspires to run the country.

The image was real. The politician who “naively” acknowledged this particular aspect of reality had to be humiliated and disowned. Labour had to get desperate about its survival before it would admit that there were aspects of UK reality it had been systematically denying. Now it is revealing how quickly the preference for avoiding even talking about reality has reasserted itself. It is Thornberry who is sane and reasonable, and all the rest who are deranged.
Dave Bradney
Llanrhystud, Ceredigion

• Why shouldn’t Emily Thornberry, MP for Islington South, declare publicly that she considers St George’s flags to be awfully low-brow and probably indicative of closet BNP voters, that Islington is just so much more multicultural and tolerant, and that it’s vastly preferable better to live somewhere where one can get organic Ocado deliveries all day long? The public are crying out for authenticity in politicians.
Jeremy Brier

• From Gordon Brown’s “bigotgate” to Emily Thornberry’s tweet, Labour has consistently ignored concerns about the squeeze that mass immigration has had on jobs, schools and hospitals. Those of us whose generations of family have worked to pay for these resources might justifiably feel frustration at their current disintegration. The flag wavers are not all bigots and racists. Many are just frustrated that UK passports seem to have been handed out like cheap candy.
Lucie Payne
Sutton, Surrey

• Poor Emily Thornberry. I taught with her mother Sally in Guildford in the early 1970s. Money was scarce in the Thornberry household on the Park Barn council estate: socialist ideals were not. She will bounce back.
John Mair

• Could Emily Thornberry be persuaded to defect to the Green party and cause a by-election in Islington?
Rev Richard Syms
Knebworth, Hertfordfordshire

• I attended my first Green party meeting this week. How refreshing to spend almost all the time discussing nuclear power, housing, public transport and the environment instead of the minutes of the last meeting and matters arising. And then to do so well in Rochester.
Richard Bull
Woodbridge, Suffolk

• It seems inconceivable that the Lib Dems’ support should have disappeared entirely in Rochester and Strood. A lot of the Lib Dem vote, and a large part of the Labour vote, undoubtedly migrated temporarily to the Tories in an attempt to prevent the election of the Ukip candidate. The swing from Tory to Ukip may have been much greater than the figures suggest.
Terry Graham
Grasmere, Cumberland

• The rise of Ukip and the likely advent of regular coalition government are symptoms of the inability of the first past the post system to deliver representative parliaments. When only the marginals, one-sixth of seats, determines the outcome, it is inevitable that significant parts of the electorate will be disenfranchised. They’ve now put in motion a process of change that will end in proportional representation.
Richard Cohen

• Almost 80% of the electorate of Rochester and Strood did not vote for the successful Ukip candidate. Time for electoral reform?
Patrick Billingham

• Ukip’s plan to quit the EU to give the UK more control over immigration takes no account of the fact that history has a habit of repeating itself. At the moment we’re doing better economically than other EU countries, particularly those in the eurozone.

But one day the position will no doubt be reversed with high unemployment in this country forcing workers to look for jobs abroad as for example happened in the 1980s. But with the UK out of the EU there won’t be a repeat of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet.
Roger Hinds
Coulsdon, Surrey

mozambique beach letters Very few programmes ever feature the magical beaches of Mozambique. Photograph: Gary Cook/Alamy

I must compliment you on Why I had to turn down Band Aid (19 November). Most people talk or write about Africa as though it were a single unitary state and appear to be unaware that there are 54 countries (or 58 counting the islands) in this very large continent. It is also very apropos that you point out that that seven out of 10 of the world’s fastest growing economies are in Africa.

I first went to Africa in 1966 for a six-month shoot on part of a documentary series for CBS-TV in New York, travelling down the east of Africa from Cairo to Cape Town and missing out only Somalia. I was ashamed of my ignorance and became angry at educational authorities for having virtually nothing in the curriculum I studied about African history. This was aggravated even further when I recently discovered Max Hasting’s statistics in All Hell Let Loose on the Commonwealth troop losses in the second world war: British losses were approximately 340,000. Commonwealth losses were 550,000.

Of course, most of the programmes that I worked on in Africa over the next 45 years were about famine, disease or war, so I have contributed to this image of Africa. Very few programmes ever feature the magical beaches of, for example, Angola and Mozambique, or the ancient heritages of Ethiopia, Benin, Mali, among others. It is further interesting that Paris has a museum solely for African art (well worth a visit) while London has none.
Christian Wangler

06.00 GMT

Michael Abraham pays tribute to Tommy Flowers, who designed and built the Colossus computer (Letters, 18 November). I would add another hidden hero on the engineering side: Harold “Doc” Keene, who worked for the British Tabulating Machine Co in Letchworth and turned the Turing’s ideas into useable machines, the Bletchley Park/Letchworth Bombes.

There are other omissions. The worst is that of the Polish mathematicians Marian Rejewski, Jerzy Rózycki and Henryk Zygalski, who were streets ahead of the British when it came to deciphering Enigma messages at the beginning of war. They passed on their discoveries.

Mention might also be made of Gordon Welchman, a fine cryptographer in his own right, who set up the management system for dealing with the vast number of Enigma decrypts, and Colonel John Tiltman, who made the initial breakthrough in decoding Lorentz messages.

The Lorentz machine wasn’t replacement for Enigma, which continued in use throughout the war. It was used for “secure” communication between Hitler and his senior military commanders. Colossus wasn’t a programmable computer in the modern sense and didn’t translate Lorentz messages. It used statistical techniques to suggest the most likely wheel settings that allowed the German text to be recovered. The translation was carried out by human beings.
Ken Vines
Yelverton, Devon

Alan Turing and his fellow mathematicians are rightly being celebrated for the enormously valuable contribution they made during the second world war at Bletchley Park, not least in the new film The Imitation Game. Their efforts would, however, have been for nought had it not been for the many talented linguists – among whom both of my parents – who translated their decrypted letters into meaningful messages that made sense and which could be turned into usable military intelligence. We need to celebrate both the mathematicians and the linguists for their remarkable contributions. Here, as in many other contexts, we need to draw on the assets of talented individuals from across the intellectual spectrum.
Helen Wallace


It is to be commended that Charlie Gilmour is taking Chris Grayling to task (“Mr Grayling, how do you account for these prison suicides?”, 16 November). But the emotional and mental health problems that prompt self-harm start much earlier.

Children in custody will have experienced abuse and domestic violence, have learning or speech and language difficulties and untreated mental health problems. One fifth of them will have self-harmed and 11 per cent attempted suicide before they went into custody. These children need care, therapy and a regime that assists in their rehabilitation if they are not to continue to offend.

It is therefore of great concern that the plans to spend £87m on a “secure college” are being pushed through parliament. How can an establishment, designed to be a cheap option and holding more than 300 children aged 12 to 17, hope to address these complex issues? In particular, we learn that the secure college will allow force to be used to ensure “good order and discipline”. A 14-year-old boy committed suicide in custody because he had been restrained for this purpose.

All the evidence tells us that warehousing children in a large establishment is more likely to increase the risk of self-harm and suicide, and will do nothing to reintegrate these children back into society.

Pam Hibbert, OBE

Chair, National Association for Youth Justice Professor Dame Sue Bailey

Chair Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition Peter Hindley

Royal College of Psychiatrists

Your editorial, “Summits need tact, not insults” (16 November) was spot on. President Putin was humiliated, whatever genuine opprobrium his actions in Ukraine may deserve, and he won’t forget it when it comes to negotiating with the perpetrators.

Wars can be started by the ego posturing of heads of state, and they can escalate in no time at all. There never was a greater need for intelligent, mature statesmanship which recognises the underlying causes of conflict and seeks constructive ways to remedy what has become an unnecessarily dangerous situation. A little more mindfulness and a lot less Bullingdon.

Sierra Hutton-Wilson

Evercreech, Somerset

Your editorial alludes to the deal struck by China and the US over climate change but fails to mention that China’s emissions will rise until 2030. Since 1990, annual emissions of carbon dioxide have risen by 60 per cent globally, and the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has now passed 400 parts per million. Irreversible climate change will kick in at 450 ppm, a level which will be reached in 20 years, about the same time that China’s emissions will peak. This deal is nothing more than posturing by the planet’s two biggest polluters.

Dr Robin Russell-Jones

Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire

Joan Smith was wrong to characterise the Catholic Church as opposing human progress (16 November). At the time of Galileo’s arrest, the correct model of the solar system was a matter of genuine debate. Galileo was badly treated but his dispute was (largely) as a result of a personal argument when he implied that the Pope was an idiot for believing the orthodox view.

The orthodox view had been developed mainly by Greek philosopher Ptolomy (not the Bible). It had held up to scrutiny for hundreds of years. Opponents of it had not been able to demonstrate that the Earth rotated at the enormous speed it would be required to (our experience is that we live on unmoving ground).

Adam Huntley

St Albans, Hertfordshire

I’m not much interested in football. The playing field is so uneven nowadays. However, I do enjoy another game called “The Rooney Count”. Before you open a newspaper, you guess how many photos of Mr Rooney will be inside. It’s always exciting and unlike football, involves minimal cost. Last week The Independent on Sunday managed six. I’d guessed seven. Never mind, better luck next time. It’s almost as exciting as “The Cumberbatch Count”!

Pete Butchers

Meldreth, Cambridgeshire


Despite claims by the government that it wants to protect the countryside, its planning reforms have facilitated development in rural communities Despite claims by the government that it wants to protect the countryside, its planning reforms have facilitated development in rural communities

West’s broken promises have played part in Ukraine drama

THE former US assistant secretary of state James Rubin omits any mention of the West’s role in his article “Putin has exploited our weakness in Ukraine — and now the Baltic states are in danger” (Focus, last week).

He ignores Mikhail Gorbachev’s recent observation that Russia feels betrayed by the West breaking its promise that German reunification would not lead to an eastward expansion of Nato. This went ahead, moreover, despite Russia giving America invaluable territorial access for its war in Afghanistan. Then came Ukraine’s tilt to the West.

It is not clear Ukraine is our responsibility. It was part of Russia’s domain for a large period during the 20th century and it is not a member of Nato, whereas a number of the Baltic states now are. Georgia and Ukraine may be one thing, but attacks on Nato allies are different. We know that — and Putin knows we know.
Gordon Bonnyman, Frant, East Sussex


Rubin asserts that this “is what happens when a bully is not confronted right away and becomes drunk with his own apparent success”. Was this not Anthony Eden’s argument about the former Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser? America’s response was to pull the rug from under our currency until we gave Nasser a free hand. Has America changed its spots?
David Drury, Swanage, Dorset

Planning rural blight from Westminster

THE housing and planning minister, Brandon Lewis, says “countryside protection” is at the heart of what this government is doing to reform planning (“Countryside alliance”, Letters, last week).

I live in rural Somerset and I can assure him that nothing is further from the truth. Lewis has been in his job for just a few months and demonstrates his lack of understanding of the reality outside his Westminster bubble.

Here we have opportunist, land-grabbing housing developers putting in planning applications for large unsightly estates on prime agricultural greenfield sites with the near certainty that local authorities are unable to stop them. Any refusal will be appealed against by developers, which know that councils are unable to afford the cost of appeals.
Robin Lea, Congresbury, Somerset


Our parish of 500 houses, two pubs, one village shop/post office and one junior school is facing planning applications for 200 homes. The issues involved are complex and include the relaxation of planning consent, the removal of a local development plan, poor transport links, insufficient infrastructure, farmers selling up and so on.

It was therefore interesting to read the minister’s gift of local determination and his recognition of environment protection. What guff.
Howard Day, Swadlincote, Leicestershire

US general in the line of fire

AS TWO senior officers who served with General Sir Nick Carter in Kandahar in 2009 and 2010 we are appalled at the portrayal that the retired US general Daniel Bolger has given of operations in southern Afghanistan under the new chief of the general staff’s leadership (“British Army chief ‘cost lives’ ”, News, last week).

The Nato International Security Assistance Force’s (Isaf) policy of “courageous restraint” was controversial, but it was specifically designed to protect the civilian population whose trust and support we were trying to win.

This required a subtly different kind of courage from our soldiers on occasion, but British and US troops were never denied the right of self-defence or prevented from accessing the considerable support available in southern Afghanistan, as suggested by Bolger. Far from General Carter residing in a “well-appointed command post” we frequently stood in for him as he ventured into the population centres, holding countless meetings with our Afghan partners and getting a real feel for the situation on the ground.

We never saw Bolger on the ground in Kandahar, and therefore the authority with which he appears to speak on the relationships that existed between Isaf headquarters in Kabul and its HQ in Kandahar should be treated with much scepticism. We believe he has made his assertions on the basis of third-hand information.
Major-General Richard Davis, British Army, and Lieutenant-General Ben Hodges, Commanding General, US Army Europe


I am lucky to have lived through an extraordinary period of space endeavours (“One giant step”, Focus, last week). The grainy pictures of the first moon landing in 1969 are something I shall never forget, and the Rosetta mission was driven by scientists — many of them British — to find why we are here and how. I hope through such ventures, God will be taken out of the equation.
Harvey Clegg, Woodbridge, Suffolk


Simon Green, senior lecturer in space science at the Open University, states: “The cost of Rosetta pales into insignificance next to what people spend on shampoo and mascara”. But at least they have something to show for the outlay.
Terry Slater, Harlow, Essex


Why is the cost of space exploration always compared with expenditure on female products such as mascara rather than male products such as aftershave?
David Greenwood, Barnet, London

Fifa deserves red card for whitewash

THE Fifa scandal surrounding World Cup bidding continues unabated (“Fixer’s World Cup offer to England”, News, and “Fifa’s whitewash can’t hide stain of corruption”, Editorial, last week), and there is now surely no doubt that this inept and seemingly corrupt organisation is totally unfit for purpose.

If the world of football had anything about it, it would ensure that Fifa in its present form is abolished and replaced by a totally new organisation run by an executive with no connections to the past. Unfortunately, one suspects that there are far too many people at the top of world football with their snouts in the trough to take this necessary action for the benefit of the game.
Bob Watson, Baildon, West Yorkshire


The mention of a “Fifa ethics judge” is rather like referring to a “Nazi equal-opportunities officer” or a “mafia non-violence committee”. The most honourable thing English football could do would be to leave Fifa, but with money holding the central place in the game that it does, this is never going to happen.
Colin Jordan, London W4


I write as director of the largest West Midlands pathology service, a six-year member of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence cancer services and a former president of the Association of Clinical Pathologists.Your front-page article “Surgeons told to publish deaths”(News, last week) is detrimental to patients. A surgeon faced with a patient destined to die without an emergency operation, where that procedure carries an 80-90% risk of death, will now not try. As a 63-year-old, can I expect that the surgeon will consider his “position” before considering my own as a very sick patient whom he could save, albeit by operating at risk of an increased death rate? Should I die in such circumstances, it should not be wrongly attributed to the surgeon who tried their best in such dire circumstances.
Professor Archie J Malcolm,Shrewsbury, Shropshire


I am not sure which is more shocking — that a con artist should issue a death threat (“ ‘Try to find your £380,000 watch and you’ll die’ ”, News, last week) or that anyone would pay that amount for a watch when a smartphone has more “super complication” than a Patek Philippe timepiece and tells the time more accurately.
Mark Solon, London SW12


The claim that in the First World War “1.2m Indians fought in the mud in Belgium and France and they died in vast numbers” is misleading (“Let every school saddle up for a war course”, News Review, November 9). The 1.2m figure is the total number of men who served in the Indian army anywhere in the world, including India itself, during the war. For the western front the figures are roughly 90,000 soldiers (of whom almost 9,000 gave their lives) and 50,000 non-combatants in labour units. At least 5,000 have no known grave.
TA Heathcote, Author of The Military in British India


Your data on the domination of some grammar schools by children from ethnic minorities is deliciously ironic (“White pupils fail to make grade for grammar school”, News, last week). Those middle-class, professional and media folk who have been so condescending and laid-back about immigration will soon feel the impact of migrant competition on their children’s careers and prospects. Something about sowing and reaping?
Peter Richards, Poole, Dorset


I have spent 35 years in food production and expected more from your article on the employment of Hungarians in a UK sandwich factory (“Feeding the sandwich generation”, Focus, last week). Where was the mention of the benefits the sandwich industry has for our farmers, bread makers and packaging companies, and of the tax they generate? Britain leads the way in large-scale modern food production. Look at any manufacturer of chilled food, from fruit packing to ready meals, and it will be filled with hard-working, tax-paying foreigners without whom Nigel Farage would not get his Christmas turkey and sliced salmon next month.
Stephen A Minall, Radlett, Hertfordshire


May I correct an error regarding the cause of death of Sally Mugabe, the first wife of Robert Mugabe (“Power rival feels Mrs Mugabe’s claws”, World News, November 9)? I had intermittently attended Sally for 12 years up to her death. She had been on kidney dialysis for 10 years and died of an infection in 1992. There was no question of cancer, as was reported.
Dr Roger Gabriel, Emeritus Consultant Renal Physician, Guildford, Surrey


What a shame The Sunday Times has fallen for the myth of body mass index (BMI) being an indicator of obesity (“Britain’s (not so) light infantry”, News, last week). When I was serving in the army I attended my annual medical check and, despite being successful in whatever fitness test I undertook, I was horrified to see that my weight classified me as obese. I was told by the military medical orderly that the BMI was “just for civvies”.
Mark Newnham, York


Is it so outrageous to suggest that exercise is a more effective and beneficial solution to the claimed obesity crisis than trying to control fast-food portion sizes? That said, a little common sense would be a far more useful solution to many of today’s problems than the ever-increasing effort to regulate our lives.
Hamish Hossick, Broughty Ferry, Dundee

Corrections and clarifications

In last week’s newspaper the masthead “UK’s top 600 primary & prep schools” and pages of the Parent Power supplement in News Review headed “Britain’s top 300 primary and prep schools” should have read “England’s top 600…” and “England’s top 300… ” respectively. We apologise to our readers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland for the misleading nature of the headlines.

The article “Let every school saddle up for a war course” (News Review, November 9) attributed the claim that “1.2m Indians fought in the mud in Belgium and France and they died in vast numbers” to Michael Morpurgo. This is incorrect and was added during the editing process. We apologise to Mr Morpurgo for this error.

Complaints about inaccuracies in all sections of The Sunday Times, should be addressed to or Complaints, The Sunday Times, 1 London Bridge Street, London SE1 9GF. In addition, the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) will examine formal complaints about the editorial content of UK newspapers and magazines. Please go to our complaints section for full details of how to lodge a complaint.


Zoë Ball, broadcaster, 44; Miley Cyrus, singer, 22; Joe Eszterhas, screenwriter, 70; Kevin Gallacher, footballer, 48; Shane Gould, former Olympic champion swimmer, 58; Bruce Hornsby, musician, 60; Sue Nicholls, actress, 71; Diana Quick, actress, 68; Robert Towne, screenwriter, 80; Kirsty Young, broadcaster, 46


1924 Edwin Hubble publishes discovery that Milky Way is not the only galaxy; 1963 first episode of Doctor Who; 1990 Roald Dahl, author, dies; 1996 hijacked Ethiopian Airlines plane crash-lands, killing 125; 2002 rioting over the country’s hosting of the Miss World contest leaves 215 dead in Kaduna, Nigeria


Irish Times:

Irish Independent:

Madam – My stance in favour of water charges all along has been because of conservation. Now that we know the details of the charges it seems the conservation argument has gone out the window. Now it seems that what my anti-water charges friends were telling me was correct – it is just a tax under another name.

With a cap in place on charges, it seems it doesn’t matter how much water you use. We are now being told that the meters will help reduce bills if you use a small amount of water. In reality the reduction will be minuscule and will not be worth the effort. Granted the meters may find a few leaks but if you are effectively not being penalized for them, what’s the point in getting them fixed.

€500 million worth of meters will effectively be a white elephant of epic proportions compared to the €50 million spent on e-voting machines.

While I have not taken part in any protests so far I am seriously thinking of taking part in the next nationwide protest on December 10. Let’s derail this out of control speeding train before there is an almighty crash,

Thomas Roddy,


Give with the hope of reward

Madam – This Christmas Irish people should reach out to neighbours with charitable donations. I know of a man who, over many years, helped others anonymously. He never spoke of these good deeds but many had cause to be grateful, for the blank envelope found in the post box.

Just put some money in an envelope and post it to someone in need. There are millions of euro leaving the State on behalf of the Irish people every single day. It is time to look after our own needy.

Harry Mulhern,


Show respect for dead and injured

Madam – The recent death of a two-year-old girl, who was killed in a road traffic accident in Waterford, was tragic and heart-rending. I cannot begin to imagine the grief that her family are going through.

It is deplorable that members of the public that happened upon the scene began capturing videos and photo images with their phones.

Yet it has become so widespread that Waterford Fire Services has appealed to the public to let them get on with their work and to show respect and dignity to those involved in accidents. Curiosity is normal; taking pictures of dying, injured and distraught victims is not.

John Bellew

Dunleer, Co Louth

Good friends are worth a lot

Madam – What a truly poignant piece from Eleanor Goggin – “A friend through thick, thin and laughter” in the Sunday Independent (16 November). I was in tears after reading it.

We have all had these best friends, in childhood, school, college and later years and they are more than worth their weight in gold.

I can totally empathise with Eleanor’s description. My friends and I have been through so much together over the past 25 years including parents’ deaths, ill-health, etc, and I can honestly say anything to them. We can sit in silence reading or laugh hysterically at the most stupid things. We all put up with each other’s oddities.

My thoughts are with Eleanor and her friend’s family. I am going to make a point of touching base with some of my closest friends, for you never know the day nor the hour.

Mary Quinn,

Dun Laoghaire,

Co Dublin

There’s a need for new politics

Madam – What I found most revealing about last weekend’s water charges demonstration was that it was timed to coincide with a group of adults receiving graduation certificates – people improving their lives through hard work and application.

We now see that the hard-Left offers a politics of perpetual adolescence – angry with “the system”, but never offering a viable, or affordable alternative.

We also have a huge number of people – myself included – who will never again vote for any of the big three parties who have ruled this State since independence.

Their tribalism and cronyism, along with their contempt for the taxpayer, make their version of “democracy” too far from what’s required in the 21st century.

The vacuum in Irish politics needs to be filled by responsible politicians – and a responsible electorate.

We need grassroots democracy, a genuine “public service”, elected mayors with real clout, balanced budgets and an end to generations of welfare dependency in an economy still able to attract large numbers of immigrants.

A real republic would be a fitting tribute to the 1916 generation, and leave a far better legacy for the generations to come.

Over to you, Independents with vision.

Gerry Kelly,


Dublin 6.

Protests can get hijacked

Madam – As we witnessed in Jobstown last week, peaceful protests can be hijacked by other less savoury elements.

I believe politicians calling for a “show of anger” should bear this in mind in relation to the planned protest on December 10.

In my humble opinion, and I hope I am wrong, I think there is a good chance that every Garda-hater and malcontent will see this event as an early Christmas present.

I have visions of the “Love Ulster” debacle, when similar elements showed their own particular version of protest.

If this turns out to be the case on December 10 the aforementioned politicians should start preparing their respective speeches.

Pat Burke Walsh,


Co Wexford

We need a strong leader

Madam – While watching the disgraceful behaviour of a sinister element to the water charges protests, and the total disrespect for our democratically elected ministers, it behoves the Catholic Church to come out strongly, and show their utter abhorrence at this sordid show of violence and anarchy.

Shame on those thugs, and also on those who abused Mairia Cahill and all the other victims. Where is the voice of reason, before we step over the precipice. We need a strong leader now more so than ever.

Una Heaton,


Change can come quick if we want it

Madam – Isn’t it surprising how quickly this government acted to rein in its more extreme tendencies – once its own future prospects were put in jeopardy, regarding the protests over Irish Water?

May we all live long enough to witness a few more epiphanies!

Richard Dowling,


Co Laois

Should we leave EU to mark 1916?

Madam – The debate about how we should commemorate the 1916 Rising is just beginning. No doubt it will be used and abused by politicians to justify every point on the political spectrum.

Perhaps the best way to truly recall the memory of the men and women who paid the ultimate price for the right to self-determination would be to hold a referendum about our support for the disgraceful usurpation of the Irish people by our so-called EU partners.

The Irish people should be afforded an opportunity to assert our support or otherwise for the forced bailout of the European and international private banking system and the German-dominated political institution (the EU) that imposed such cruel terms on this nation. It is timely, on the centenary of our most significant historical moment, that we take courage and consider leaving the EU, a body that will never again respect this nation’s right to equal treatment.

The wording of the referendum is partly in place, courtesy of Thomas J Clarke, Sean Mac Diarmada, Thomas MacDonagh, PH Pearse, Eamonn Ceannt, James Connolly and Joseph Plunkett.

“We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland, and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible. The long usurpation of that right by a foreign people and government has not extinguished the right, nor can it ever be extinguished except by the destruction of the Irish people.”

Declan Doyle,

Lisdowney, Kilkenny

Water charges made worm turn

adam – Enda Kenny spoke of a democratic revolution on his accession to power but, as we have seen, this was not the case. The bailout is over, the Troika has come (though it pops over every now and again), but the same vested interests and people at the top of the pile sail serenely on.

Politicians, developers, bankers and regulators lost us our independence and our sovereignty; our children took the emigrant boat/plane again; and our shops and industries closed by the thousand. We bailed them out, but got little thanks for it.

Finally, in the shape of the water protests, the Celtic worm has turned. I think most of us were too terrified by the suddenness of the bust to be angry at the time, which explains why there were so few protests during the height of austerity.

We were left in a parlous position of needing to be bailed out, we saw that our leaders in the political and banking sectors literally were clueless and we were afraid.

Now that fear has somewhat subsided, and has been gradually replaced by a slow-burning anger.

With this anger, the chimera of Enda’s democratic revolution is gradually taking shape. The water protests saw ordinary people tell those in charge that we won’t take any more. The problem is both financial and philosophical.

We are already paying for water, and if leaks need fixing, then use this money to get them fixed. It should not take a new monopoly, complete with inbuilt bonus culture (and we saw where that got us in the financial sector during the Celtic Tiger), to do this job.

Nor should this company, which is set up to manage water, immediately pay millions to consultants to tell them how to do their job!

Given that all of this boils down to “fix the leaks”, it is no wonder that people are angry.

This will not just be water under the bridge for this government. The Irish people showed Fianna Fail and the Greens what they thought of them in the last election – and election 2016 is coming soon. What a fitting date to begin a real democratic revolution.

Dr Eugene O’Brien,

Dept of English,

Mary Immaculate College

University of Limerick

Let’s put the children first

Madam – In last week’s Sunday Independent, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, James Reilly speaking about Sinn Fein and abuse allegations said: “If we are to address the failings of our past, which we know are many, we must recognise we have a duty to put children first. This means all of us all of the time. Otherwise we will fail our children again.”

I say, forget the pomp and ceremony of commemorating 1916. Instead use the €26m to get the children’s hospital started, and I mean started – bricks-and-mortar started. A united Ireland that so much blood has been shed for is increasingly a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic population. Let’s drop the romantic sentiment, do our duty and put children first. They are after all, always going to be our future.

Cut through the red tape, bureaucracy and let’s face it, egotistical bullshit, and use the opportunity to put the children of Ireland first. For once.

Anne Lawlor,

Marino, Dublin 3

Things could get worse – wake up

Madam – Gerry Adams spends much of his time in his native jurisdiction, ie, Northern  Ireland, where he keeps busy preparing his people for the British general election, coming up soon.

Anyone who finds the spectacle of an “Irish republican” TD gearing up to campaign for potential MPs in a British parliament somewhat confusing, can be assured that under the guise of SF being a “national party”, we only need to think for one minute to realise Gerry’s outfit are indeed a partitionist political entity. Of course this is something they abhor in our own legitimate democracy here in Eire.

They accuse others in Leinster House of being what they represent more than anyone in politics, themselves. And we wonder why an American journalist might get bamboozled as to exactly who and where we are?

The current mantra of Sinn Fein in what they used to call disparagingly the “Free State,” is ‘tax the rich’, whatever that means. The ‘rich’ already are paying. The propaganda SF issues in polite circles is to portray concern for the hard-pressed payers of tax while the perceived rich are ‘getting away’ with murder, if you’ll pardon the pun.

There is a distinct lack of clarity when they speak of the unspeakable “rich”, but among many of their supporters this simply means anyone who has a small business; someone who owns a nice car, or indeed everyone with a job already paying tax but not known to vote for Sinn Fein.

A lot of the ‘thinking’ among the Shinners’ rank and file is that their time has come and the taxing to extinction of the movers and shakers in business, and the supposed well paid, means more for themselves as they contemplate the revolution with a few extra special offer cans on their sofas from the un-Irish local supermarket, while watching ‘Match of the Day’ wearing Liverpool and Chelsea shirts.

Wake up Ireland,if you think things cannot get any worse than they are now.

Robert Sullivan,

Bantry, Co Cork.

We’re still waiting, Mary Lou

Madam – Last week, in Dail Eireann, Mary Lou McDonald stated “anyone associated with the abuse of a child or the cover-up of abuse must face the full rigours of the law”.

A week later and I have not heard of her mentioning her party leader who has admitted he was aware of his brother’s abuse of his niece and took no action?

Cal Hyland,

Rosscarbery, West Cork

Why do we keep knocking Bob?

Madam – Please, Please, Madam, tell me it was a big mistake to publish Declan Doyle’s letter “Give ‘em your money, Bob” (Sunday Independent, 16 November).

I will not even go into the reasons why, they are so obvious.

Why, oh why Madam, do we so often, try to knock really good people in this country?

(By the way, thank you so much for publishing my letter about the wonderful school choirs – I was just sorry it was so close to Mr Doyle’s rubbish.)

Brian McDevitt,

Glenties, Co Donegal

Bob is a real leader with Band Aid 30

Madam – I am sure I am not alone when expressing my disgust at one Mr Doyle in the Letters Page (Sunday Independent, 16 November), having a go at Bob Geldof and Band Aid 30 re-doing Do They Know It’s Christmas.

Geldof is someone who tries to make a difference when others wait for someone else to do something. He’s an example to us all.

Why would anyone who is mourning the loss of their daughter be bothered to launch another campaign this time to help Ebola victims? This is the mark of the man, taking action rather than moaning that something should be done.

John Walsh,


Sunday Independent


November 22, 2014

22 November 2014 Bank

I still have arthritis in my left toe I am stricken with gout. But I manage to get to do the housework and I go to the bank.

Mary’s back much better today, breakfast weight down vegatables for tea and her back pain is still there but decreasing.


Jadwiga Pilsudska-Jaraczewska – obituary

Jadwiga Pilsudska-Jaraczewska was a daughter of Poland’s national hero Marshal Jozef Pilsudsk and flew Spitfires for the Allied cause

Jadwiga Pilsudska-Jaraczewska, centre, during the war

Jadwiga Pilsudska-Jaraczewska, centre, during the war

5:25PM GMT 21 Nov 2014


Jadwiga Pilsudska-Jaraczewska, who has died aged 94, was the younger daughter of the pre-war Polish leader and military hero Marshal Jozef Pilsudski; after the German invasion of her country, she fled to Britain, where she served during the war as a pilot in the Air Transport Auxiliary.

Jadwiga Pilsudska was born on February 28 1920 in Warsaw, the younger of two daughters of the Polish “chief of state” by his then mistress Aleksandra Szczerbinska, whom he was unable to marry because his first wife, Maria, refused him a divorce. They married after Maria died in 1921.

Many Poles regard Pilsudski as their greatest national hero – the man who helped Poland regain its independence at the end of the First World War after 125 years when it had been wiped off the map. In the year Jadwiga was born, he led Polish troops to a stunning victory over Russian Bolshevik forces in the Soviet-Polish war of 1919-20. If his later record, as de facto dictator of Poland from 1926 to his death in 1935, remains more controversial due to his internment of political opponents, his vision of a multi-ethnic Poland, tolerant of different peoples and faiths, is one which continues to inspire many Polish democrats.

From their earliest years Pilsudski’s daughters, Jadwiga and her elder sister Wanda, joined him in public appearances. Brought up in Warsaw and educated at a private school, they lived for some time in the Belweder Palace, which now houses a museum dedicated to their father, and at Milusin, a small manor house at Sulejówek (about 12 miles east of Warsaw), that had been given to the Marshal by his soldiers.

Jadwiga’s interest in aviation began in childhood. From building model aeroplanes, she graduated to flying gliders in 1937 and went on to gain her pilot’s licence.

After leaving school in 1939, she wanted to study aeronautical engineering at Warsaw’s Technical University, but her plans were interrupted by the German invasion that September. Shortly afterwards she fled with her mother and sister to Sweden before being evacuated on a special flight to England, where she embarked on a degree in Architecture at Newnham College, Cambridge.

February 1940 saw the foundation of the ATA as a civilian service dedicated to ferrying aircraft around the UK for the RAF, and Jadwiga soon made the first of several attempts to join the new service.

Jadwiga Pilsudska-Jaraczewska with officers during the war

By the spring of 1942 there was an increasing demand for ATA pilots. British women pilots had been recruited from the early months of the war, and in the spring of 1942 the first American women pilots arrived. They were the largest group of overseas ATA pilots. Excluding those from the Commonwealth, the next largest, and certainly the most colourful, were the Poles. From 1940 there had been a steady trickle of Polish male pilots; among the June 1942 contingent was the young and attractive Jadwiga.

Initially she flew training and light transport aircraft before graduating to fighters such as the Hurricane and Spitfire (her personal favourite). Before transferring to a new aircraft type, pilots spent a brief period sitting in the cockpit to familiarise themselves, and then, using a standard checklist, they took off on their first flight .

Jadwiga, who was described by her superiors as “ of above average skills”, rose to be a second officer and this allowed her to fly Class 4 aircraft, which included advanced twin-engined aircraft such as the Wellington bomber and the Mosquito in addition to fighters and transport aircraft.

Jadwiga Pilsudska-Jaraczewska (second from right) with other ATA pilots during the war

After two years with the ATA she decided to return to her studies and in July 1944 took leave of absence to enrol at the Polish School of Architecture at the Polish University Abroad, housed at Liverpool University, from where she graduated in 1946. In 1944 she had married Lieutenant Andrzej Jaraczewski, a Polish naval officer, with whom she had a son and daughter.

After the war they remained in political exile in Britain. For a time Jadwiga worked as an architect in the urban and regional planning department of the London County Council, before she and her husband founded a small company producing lamps and furniture of her own design.

She never took British citizenship, instead using a Nansen passport (for political refugees) pending the day when she could resume full Polish citizenship.

Her daughter, Joanna, returned to Poland in 1979 and married the Solidarity activist Janusz Onyszkiewicz (who would serve two terms as Poland’s Minister of Defence in the 1990s). Jadwiga waited until the fall of communism in 1990, when she and her husband and sister returned home, settling in Warsaw, where Andrzej Jaraczewski died in 1992.

With her sister, Jadwiga co-founded the Jozef Pilsudski Family Foundation, and in 2000 they persuaded the state to return the family manor of Milusin, where plans are now under way for the construction of a museum dedicated to their father.

Jadwiga Pilsudska-Jaraczewska in later life (AP)

For her wartime service in the ATA Jadwiga Pilsudska-Jaraczewska was awarded the Polish Bronze Cross of Merit with Swords, and in 2008 she was presented with the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta by the Polish president Lech Kaczynski.

Her sister Wanda died in 2001. Her children survive her.

Jadwiga Pilsudska-Jaraczewska, born February 28 1920, died November 16 2014


Professor Janet Beer Professor Janet Beer, vice-chancellor of Oxford Brookes University, is one of only 35 women among a total of 170 higher education vice-chancellors. Photograph: Anna Gordon

Having worked in the field of equality legislation, I reject the suggestion that it dictates to people and controls what they can say or think (Paul Mason, G2, 17 November), as was claimed in a Sheffield University study. From Britain’s first Race Relations Act of 1965 to the 2010 Equality Act, such legislation merely seeks to ensure that members of minority groups are equally entitled to choose where they live, work or are educated, living fulfilled lives without being hampered by other people’s prejudices.

Anyone who wants to throw a private party for redheaded lesbians excluding blond heterosexual men is free to do so, but must never exercise those prejudices when employing people or letting them accommodation. The great achievement of race relations legislation since 1965 has been to make racial prejudice socially unacceptable enough to make people hesitate before expressing it. That some people still display it is regrettable, but must be accepted as part of the diversity of human beings.

I write as the widow of a black Jamaican, with a Ghanaian-born son-in-law and an Irish-Canadian grandmother from Quebec. I am also descended from a Huguenot pastor who escaped from Roman Catholic persecution in France in 1686 eventually to settle in Holland, which entitles me to live in England’s oldest immigrant housing scheme, in Rochester.
Jane Hammond
Rochester, Kent

• The dismal plight of many women in academia makes depressing reading (Low pay, brief maternity leave and few senior roles, Education, 18 November). In higher education in Britain just 35 women are vice-chancellors out of a total of 170, women form only 17% of the professoriat, and nearly three-quarters of the posts paying more than £57,000 are held by men. The plight of pregnant academics and mothers with young children was particularly distressing to read.

Surely vice-chancellors, with their combined IQs, can come up with some solutions to these issues. Is it not time these blatant inequalities in higher education were addressed?
June Purvis
Emeritus professor of women’s and gender history, University of Portsmouth

So Prince Charles thinks he will be well placed to relay public opinion when he becomes king (Report, 20 November). He has a staff of 124, dresses like his grandfather and hires his own personal airliner (at taxpayers’ expense) to fly to Nelson Mandela’s funeral. His favourite pop group is the Three Degrees. I can’t think of anyone better to represent me.
David Gerrard
Hove, East Sussex

• Those writing of the lack of recognition for Tommy Flowers (Letters, 18 November) may be heartened to know that a street in a new housing estate on the site of the Bletchley outstation in Eastcote, Middlesex, appears to be named after the wizard of Dollis Hill.
Andrew Calvert
Eastcote, Middlesex

• Perhaps the council in the New Era estate scandal (Report, 20 November) should compulsorily purchase the estate? Issuing CPOs to landlords proposing above-inflation social housing rent increases might take a lot of “financialisation” out of housing altogether.
Wendy Bradley

• Perhaps your subs, when describing the likes of Kim Kardashian, could bear in mind this limerick: There was a young lady from Madras, / Who had a most wonderful ass; / Not round, plump and pink, as you probably think, / But grey, with long ears and ate grass (Letters, 17 November).
Robert Proctor

• Jonathan Freedland (Opinion, 15 November) did not mention that the spacecraft for the comet mission was built by Airbus Defence and Space UK or that the Open University and Rutherford Appleton laboratory developed a key instrument on board Philae – both major successes for British workers, who deserve our congratulations for their faultless design and manufacturing.
Huw Jones
St Clears, Carmarthenshire

• I suggest that the comet is about the size of Barry Island near Cardiff, but easier to get to (Letters, 18 November).
Wyn Thomas

How’s this for an opening line: “We caught a cold when we were coming” (A translator’s incisive essays explore the inner life of fiction, Review, 15 November). It was this howler that prompted my husband, Erich Fried, to make a bid as translator of TS Eliot – or so he told me (and I don’t think he could possibly have made it up). He translated almost anything; I know of only two texts he baulked at: Jesus Christ Superstar (and that wasn’t because he didn’t like the text) and, predictably, Finnigans Wake, apart from about 12 pages. A recent BBC programme credited his translation of Under Milk Wood as making Dylan Thomas famous in Germany, shortly after his death.

Incidentally, Erich translated straight into German poetry at (only a slow-ish) dictation speed. I was painting him while he translated Shakespeare, so I know. It astonished and appalled me in equal measure.
Catherine Boswell Fried

David Cameron in Brisbane: what was his gloating over the economies of the eurozone supposed to achi David Cameron in Brisbane: what was his gloating over the economies of the eurozone supposed to achieve? Photograph: Glenn Hunt/AFP/Getty Images

George Monbiot’s call for “a government commission on post-growth economics” should be urgent parliamentary business (Growth: the destructive God that can never be appeased, 19 November). All MPs should read the article, and they should tell us how they respond to some relevant questions. Do you realise that economic growth today demands more fossil fuel combustion that exacerbates disastrous climate change? Do you believe the UK could create a steady-state economy? Do you agree that social justice in a steady-state economy would require major reduction in the gap between the rich and the poor? Do you agree that the survival of most of the human race depends on these issues? Are you desperately worried about the world your grandchildren will inherit?

Britain led the world in the industrial revolution with economic growth: could we now take the lead in a steady-state revolution with zero economic growth?
Michael Bassey
Newark, Nottinghamshire

• The G20 in Brisbane was a missed opportunity to reinvigorate the global economy. Instead of stimulating new international action, its red-light warnings have been used by David Cameron to pre-empt criticism of any forthcoming downturn in the UK economy (Cameron fears second global financial crash, 17 November) and dismissed by Ed Miliband as irrelevant to explaining any future UK failures (Miliband mocks PM over ‘excuses’ for borrowing, 18 November). The sad truth is that Britain should have been playing a leading role before and during the G20 to mobilise support for multilateral actions of stimulus and balanced global growth, on which the health of the world economy depends. Global actions of stimulus briefly succeeded in 2009, though sadly were abandoned before they had taken hold on a global scale, though not before they had demonstrated some real success. The global economy grew 4% in 2010. A fuller agenda of what was and is still required was set out in the Stiglitz commission report presented to the UN general assembly, which dealt with both short- and medium-run actions, as well as providing specific proposals for diminishing financial risks and strengthening global institutions. Until such actions are pursued seriously, protecting the UK economy from a global downturn will be whistling in the wind.
Professor Richard Jolly
Lewes, Sussex

• The prime minister’s decision to announce his fears about the instability of the global financial system (Opinion, 17 November) was surprising. What was his gloating over the economies of the eurozone supposed to achieve? I questioned Mario Draghi, chair of the European Systemic Risk Board, in the European parliament on this unhelpful behaviour. He refused to comment. Given the crucial role that confidence plays in the world of finance, it appears that Cameron is himself becoming a systemic risk. I do hope that he is not risking the future of the continent’s financial system merely to score some political points at home.
Molly Scott Cato MEP
Green, South West England

• Red warning lights have been flashing for some time on our fragile recovery, based on the usual housing bubble that has now burst leaving thousands of households  in dread of an interest rate rise. Running a country is not the same as running a business or a household, described by one economist as the zombie idea still walking. As the national debt is historically low, it makes sense to borrow at low interest rates to invest in the rising generation, too many of whom have been sacrificed on the altar of the deficit. Our children are tested to death but not educated to have the skills necessary to find employment, and feel they are on the scrapheap. We do not employ them, or house them, but we do lock too many of them up in overcrowded prisons where the suicide rate is rising.Another £30bn worth of cuts will reduce us to consumers of privatised public services rather that citizens in a democracy.
Margaret Phelps
Penarth, Vale of Glamorgan

• Am I the only one to treat the news that the economy is not growing; as good news? We live on a planet with finite resources. I can see no difference between an economy that relies on growth and a pyramid selling scam.
Rod Thompson
Camborne, Cornwall

'Don’t damn all GP surgeries because of your personal bad experience: fdind a new practice' – Corinn ‘Don’t damn all GP surgeries because of your personal bad experience: fdind a new practice’ – Corinne Haynes. Photograph: Popperfoto/Getty Images

I am a GP, just in from work (8.40pm) after a day at my surgery. Just a normal day, not a late night. And no, I am not a martyr to the NHS. I am just trying to make sure that all my patients are seen, all my correspondence from hospital colleagues is dealt with, all my results are read and filed, all my letters written, all reports I have been asked to do (which are not strictly part of my NHS work, but there is no one else to do them) are completed. Actually, I did not do the last bit. That will have to wait until the weekend, in my own time. Am I smiling now? No, I am seething with rage at Mary Dejevsky’s hatchet job on general practice (Most of us just want a GP appointment and a friendly smile at reception, 19 November).

We get the health service we pay for. In fact, according to international studies, we get more than that: we get extremely good value for our taxes. In GPs we get, in the main, highly skilled and highly motivated people who continue to give all they can despite a fall in their income in real terms of 16%, despite a fall in the proportion of the total NHS income that goes to general practice of a similar amount, despite demands for instant access, telephone appointments and email service, and despite an ever-more-complex and ageing population to care for. We need a real debate on what we want from our health service, and how it is going to paid for. What we don’t need is being told how to do our job when we are more aware than anyone else of the shortcomings of general practice.
Dr Robert Bennett

• I was a GP partner until I left at the age of 53. My wife was a GP partner until she left at the age of 49. The stresses of trying to cope with ever-increasing demand with ever-tighter finances proved intolerable. Most receptionists are polite and professional but cannot create additional appointments with clinicians who already have a full workload from the moment they arrive at work to the moment they leave. I would suggest Mary Dejevesky arranges to spend time observing the situation in a medical practice. If she is then able to offer constructive criticism, I am sure it would be welcomed.
Dr Paul Cassidy

• I read with interest Mary Dejevsky’s column on the difficulties of getting an appointment with “your” GP. Although prior to the 2004 contract individual GP partners were responsible for a registered list of patients, the new contract gave the practice responsibility for a registered population. There has always been a tension between access, continuity and cost. Over the last 10 years, with the shift towards a consumer society, demand for instant access has been greater than for continuity, eroding the central relationship of a patient with a GP. This has been particularly true of the more vocal majority, often with less need, resulting in political moves to incentivise practices to provide quicker access at the expense of those who need continuity of care. Relationship continuity with your GP is important for patient experience, and evidence shows outcomes are improved, particularly in those with complex needs, but in addition it enhances doctor resilience, much needed at a time of workforce crisis with fewer than 25% of new graduates choosing general practice.

In my own practice we have always prioritised continuity and all patients have a named GP. In order to continue to prioritise continuity but still manage increasing demand for access, as well as an increasingly part-time workforce, we have introduced small teams so that if the patient’s named GP is not available the patient sees only one or two other GPs.

GPs have worked out for themselves what is needed, but much is subject to the whims of our political masters, out of our control. The politicians are recognising the importance of continuity, hence the introduction of a named GP for over 75s, and from April 2015, for every patient. I welcome wholeheartedly a return to placing continuity at the heart of primary care, but there will continue to be a tension between access and continuity unless more resources, both in term of money and GPs, are found.
Dr Naureen Bhatti

• Mary Dejevsky has misunderstood the information that the Care Quality Commission has published for every NHS GP practice in England. She discovered that a local practice’s “overall score was a presentable five out of six”. For each GP practice, the CQC combines 38 indicators into an overall score. It then uses this to assign a practice into one of six priority bands for inspection. Band 1 is the highest risk and Band 6 the lowest. A practice’s priority band for inspection isn’t an “overall score” and shouldn’t be interpreted as such.
Dr Alex May

• I must be lucky where in live, in a Merseyside village: I can nearly always get an appointment on the day I call (if I phone at 8:30am), the staff are pleasant, and I have no problem with repeat prescriptions. But for those who aren’t so lucky, aren’t they being defrauded? GPs are paid per head, so if a practice reaches a situation where it can’t offer an appointment, the GPs need to work longer shifts. It’s as simple as that.
David Garner
Southport, Lancashire

• Like Mary Dejevsky’s husband, I have a long-term condition – and yes, continuity does matter. Yet it can take two to three weeks to obtain an appointment with the doctor with whom I am registered. If I don’t care for that, I can join the telephone free-for-all on the dot of 8am to obtain an appointment with a newly employed salaried doctor I have never heard of. Even this has taken, on one occasion, almost 20 minutes of constantly re-dialling.

My wife has to work abroad for her company from Monday to Thursday, so Friday is her only opportunity for an appointment. She was recently offered one four weeks in advance – and not even with the doctor of her choice.Why should we be denied adequate healthcare because of the failings of our local GP practice?
Rob Stubbs
Wirral, Merseyside

• Perhaps Mary Dejevsky should just change her doctor. My local practice cannot be the only one where one can see the doctor of choice, phone for an appointment whenever convenient, discuss possibilities with a practice nurse or a friendly, knowledgeable, smiling receptionist. Any matters of practice that cause problems can be discussed at a patient participation group. It is great. Don’t damn all GP surgeries because of your personal bad experience: find a new practice.
Corinne Haynes

We write in response to your article about Andy Miller’s legal action against the Daily Mail (Media, 14 November). While we did not comment before publication, we now wish to draw some errors to your attention.

The overall thrust of your article was that the Mail had unreasonably dragged its feet when it could have resolved matters quickly and simply without recourse to the law. We dispute that interpretation.

It is wrong to suggest that Mr Miller initially only asked for an apology and modest legal costs. In fact he always sought damages, and indeed early on was seeking £200,000 – over three times what he was eventually awarded.

Associated always accepted that the article contained an inaccuracy, offered to correct it and made an offer of damages and costs. This was rejected by Mr Miller, who, using a no-win no-fee arrangement and the iniquitous After the Event insurance – in which the premium is only ever paid by the defendant if they lose – embarked on his legal case.

Associated has not appealed against several judgments in Mr Miller’s favour, rather it appealed the initial high court judgment, lost that appeal before the court of appeal and most recently was refused permission to appeal by the supreme court.

The legal action has to date taken five years, not six, since the Daily Mail were first notified by Mr Miller of his claim in July 2009 and we dispute that the costs bill would be anything like £3m.

The costs of this case have been grossly inflated by a punitively unfair system under which, through 100% success fees and ATE insurance, defendants’ costs are trebled, while claimants take no financial risk and have little incentive to settle.

In a case involving damages of £65,000, such huge sums should be of considerable concern to the entire newspaper industry, including the Guardian.
Liz Hartley
Head of editorial legal services, The Daily Mail



Sir, The appalling and brutal murders carried out in a synagogue in Jerusalem during morning prayers this week (“Deaths push Jerusalem to brink of holy war”, Nov 19) are to be condemned in the strongest possible terms. The desecration of the sacred, taking life in a house of prayer, is the absolute antithesis of faith and of what we stand for. This attack on people at prayer is yet another example from across the globe of violence in the name of religion, which undermines religious freedom. We appeal to the believers of all traditions to denounce such attacks wherever in our world they take place and to call for an end to religiously motivated violence.

The Most Rev Justin Welby Archbishop of Canterbury
Ephraim Mirvis Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth
Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra

Sir, There is, rightly, outrage at the synagogue massacre; there should also be outrage at Benjamin Netanyahu’s response, which will ensure the cycles of “getting even” go on. It seems we are lacking a statesman capable not only of halting this spiral of violence but even understanding it.

Dominic Kirkham

Sir, Foreign secretary Philip Hammond calls for peace between the Palestinians and the Jews. Surely he should be calling for peace between Palestinians and Israelis, whether the Israelis be Jewish, Druze, Christian, Bahá’í or indeed Muslim. The tragedy is that a separate state called Palestine would not have such a variety of believers.

Tamara Selig
Stanmore, Middx

Sir, I have found that when someone shouts at me, shouting back rarely makes things better. My daughter is in Israel at present. I would feel more confident about her safety if the Israeli government took a more measured approach to the inexcusable terrorist murders.

James Goldman
London NW4

Sir, Thousands of Israelis, both Jews and Muslims, including the president and heads of both religions, attended the funeral of Zidan Saif, the Druze policeman killed in the attack. In this deeply conflicted part of the Middle East where the positions of the Arab Muslim and Israeli Jewish parties appear intractable, the Druze, a Muslim community living in Israel, should be seen as a model of cooperation on which to build.

Dr R Rosenfelder
London NW6

Sir, Your correspondent Catherine Philp puts the cart before the horse (“Jerusalem braced for holy war”, Nov 20). The conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbours did not begin as “territorial and political,” now “morphing into religious war.” Its origins were always fundamentally religious in nature — the notion of Jewish self-determination in any part of the “Dar el-Islam” [The House of Islam] being a challenge to Islamic jurisprudence.
Israel’s chief rabbinate may have forbidden Jews from entering the Temple Mount, but other rabbis have ruled differently. In any case, it is for each individual Jew to make up his or her mind on this issue. If Christians and Moslems can pray at this site, why not Jews?

Professor Geoffrey Alderman
University of Buckingham

Sir, It is 20 years since Baruch Goldstein slaughtered 29 Muslims and wounded 125 others as the prayed in the Mosque of Abraham in Hebron. His house was not demolished and though some of his supporters in the extreme right-wing Meir Kahane group were briefly held, it was the Palestinians of Hebron who were punished for this atrocity: their movements became ever more restricted, and half their mosque was converted into a synagogue.
As we rush to condemn those who have applauded the synagogue attack in Jerusalem, let us remember that Goldstein’s grave became a place of pilgrimage for Israeli settlers — more than 10,000 visited it before it was demolished by the Israeli government.

Brigid Waddams
Batcombe, Somerset

Sir, We welcome the government’s leadership in announcing that it will pledge £720 million to the Green Climate Fund. This new UN fund will channel finance to help developing countries adapt to the effects of a changing climate and invest in sustainable development.

Our organisations see first-hand how urgently this money is needed to help the poorest and most vulnerable people protect themselves from changing climate — which is already disrupting harvests. The need to support at-risk communities and habitats will intensify if emissions are not urgently reduced.

The UK joins countries including France, Germany, Japan and the US in making a significant pledge to the fund. This start-up money paves the way for a global climate agreement next year. However, if the Green Climate Fund is to fulfil its vital role, we urge all governments to continue to honour their commitments and further strengthen their ambition.

Chris Bain
Director, Cafod

Loretta Minghella
Chief executive, Christian Aid

Mark Goldring
Chief executive, Oxfam

David Bull
Executive director, Unicef UK

David Nussbaum
Chief executive, WWF-UK

Sir, Greg Hurst (“Textbook case of sloppy work” Nov 20) unfairly represents teachers as “preparing worksheets rather than refining their teaching and planning stimulating lessons”. Most teachers discover very quickly that textbooks should be used alongside a variety of resources and activities. This does include worksheets, but very rarely in productive classrooms is this the only method employed.

Liam Morgan
Head of history, Shiplake College

Sir, I am at a loss to understand why, with free movement of labour in the EU, our interest rate policy should be determined by the rate of UK employment (“Delaying a rise in interest rates now could come with a high price later”, Nov 19). Tightness of the labour market will depend also on unemployment in the rest of the EU. When labour is short, immigrants come in instead of wages going up. There will probably be ample labour supply from the EU and elsewhere for the foreseeable future. This applies to professionals as well as more general workers. Many overseas universities now use English as the language of teaching. My Dutch granddaughter recently had an English-language viva for her master’s degree in maths at a Dutch university, and earlier attended maths courses in English at the University of Stockholm.
john jackson
Keswick, Cumbria

Sir, I agree with Libby Purves (“There is no justice for those falsely accused of abuse”, Nov 20). Between 2007 and 2010 I was one of a three-person team of barristers employed by the Crown Prosecution Service in London as Specialist Rape Advocates. Our role was to provide pre-charge advice to the police in cases of sex abuse and rape and to take cases to trial once we had sanctioned charges. The idea was that the police would have one person dealing with their case, which was intended to support and reassure complainants while ensuring that weak cases were not prosecuted. Sadly, we were not deemed to be cost effective and the unit was disbanded. The police and prosecution agencies need to work together to ensure that complainants feel free to speak out but also to ensure that any person accused of such a crime has his or her side of events investigated too. It serves no one to allow weak cases to come to court and in my opinion causes further harm and distress to vulnerable victims. We need a criminal justice system that treats complainants and the accused fairly. We also to debate on how we can fund this so that the police have the training and resources to carry out investigations thoroughly and the CPS has the expertise necessary to ensure that weak cases are not put before a jury in the first place.
Sarah Le Foe
London SW6

Sir, The report (“‘You wonder if it will ever end’, says head cleared of child rape”, Nov 20) was unsettling in its description of howJames Bird and his family had suffered as a result of an abuse allegation prior to his acquittal. What was more unsettling was the comment by “a CPS spokesman” that “it was important to distinguish between evidence that a person had lied about allegations, and a jury deciding evidence was not strong enough for a conviction”.

So what happened to the principle of innocent until proved guilty? Until we have a “not proven” verdict, it would be best that (anonymous) CPS bureaucrats adhered to this principle and even, perhaps, accept that they are capable of mistakes.
Richard Rigby

Long Melford, Suffolk

Sir, Libby Purves draws readers’ attention to the effect of false allegations of sexual abuse on the lives of the accused and their families. Sadly false accusations of sexual abuse, domestic violence and drug abuse are rife during divorce proceedings in the UK Family Court. They waste court time, cause damage to already vulnerable children and are costly to defend, both emotionally and financially. The perpetrator is rarely penalised by the court and cannot be named.

Family Court reform is long overdue. The perpetrator of such serious perjury should be “named and shamed” at the conclusion of the case and costs awarded to the accused.

This might dissuade divorcing couples from resorting to serious false allegations and allow the Family Court to focus on protecting genuinely “at risk” children.
Rita Kubiak
Stratford-upon-Avon, Warks

Sir, Although it is appalling that abused children were not always believed in the past, the pendulum is swinging too far in the other direction.

I was recently in a dentist’s waiting room, alone, reading a magazine. A mother and her daughter came out of the treatment room. The woman went to pay and the child wandered into the waiting room. I looked up, said hello, and went on reading. The child ran back to her mother and I heard her say “Mummy, that lady asked me if I wanted some sweets but I said no.” The woman then told her she was a very good girl.

Had I been an elderly man, and in another setting, the outcome could have been very different.

Elizabeth Clarke

Sir, Libby Purves draws attention to the consequences of our focus on the predominance of “victims”. It would appear that an allegation of sexual assault amounts to a statement of fact, ie, the facts are as the “victim” states them to be. It is an inconvenient fact that the allegation might be open to interpretation, unsupported by evidence and, experience tells us, could be a lie. It is dangerous to make the “victims” views the sole arbiter of action,which seems to be the current trend.
Jim Howard
Newton Abbot, Devon

Sir, How times have changed (“Bring in law to protect under-12s home alone”, Nov 15). I was left alone in our house in Byker, Newcastle upon Tyne, just after the war when I was aged 6-8 years. I had my little dog, Rex, with me. Once I played with a lighted newspaper and a towel over the fire caught light. Sometimes I sat in a corner shop doorway with another lad until the pubs closed; we were safe as houses. I think.
Bill Oxley
Appleton, Warrington


Benefits and EU migration; the harmful NHS Bill; why pubs are closing, and Sir John Everett Millais, the Pre-Raphaelite who lets his hair down on screen.

David Cameron is likely to come under pressure on the subject of Europe

Amid fears that more disaffected MPs will defect to Ukip, on the eve of the Rochester by-election, strategist says David Cameron ‘would want to recommend leaving’ if a better deal could not be agreed for Britain Photo: Getty Images

7:00AM GMT 21 Nov 2014


SIR – David Lidington, the minister for Europe, says that Norway and Switzerland have to accept free movement of people from the EU without having a vote to influence policy (report, November 20). The British Government’s guidance for people moving to Switzerland says: “If you apply for welfare benefits, you will lose your right to remain in Switzerland.”

That sounds like the right kind of freedom of movement to me.

Guy Lachlan
Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire

SIR – There will always be fundamental irreconcilable differences between our British view of the freedom of movement of people into our country and the view of the rest of the European countries.

We are an island nation which has defended its shores throughout history and, until the open-door policy under the last Labour government, this had given us a feeling of security and control.

The opening of our borders coincided with the rise of international terrorism and the failure of immigration controls to identify thousands of illegal migrants entering and disappearing in our country.

England’s population density of 419 people per square kilometre is the highest of any of the main European countries, and compares with Germany at 233, Italy 192, Denmark 125, Poland 124, France 111, Portugal 109, Spain 92, and Greece 81.

To continue to allow unhindered access to this country is unacceptable, and if the EU decides to make this its bottom line, then it will persuade many of us who up to now have been reluctant to consider an exit from Europe that there is no other option.

Brian Storey
Longstowe, Cambridgeshire

SIR – Should British EU renegotiations go badly, Oliver Letwin “would want to recommend leaving”. Why the weasel words? Surely he would either recommend it, or he wouldn’t. Who or what might stop him? Is he sending us a coded message about David Cameron’s real intentions?

R A McWhirter
Zurich, Switzerland

SIR – Mr Letwin cannot guarantee that renegotiation with the EU will be successful. However, I can guarantee that we will be told that it has been successful.

Mr Cameron is determined Britain will stay in the EU. His record is such that one cannot believe a word he says to the contrary. Unsuccessful renegotiations will be massaged in the same way as the debacle over the EU’s “surprise bill” for 1.7 billion.

David Pound
Charwelton, Northamptonshire

SIR – “EU must change or we quit” says your headline on Mr Letwin’s remarks. I have a better idea: we quit now and rejoin if it does change.

Brian Gilbert
Hampton, Middlesex

Harmful NHS Bill

SIR – As NHS doctors, we are deeply concerned about the misguided and potentially disruptive National Health Service Bill being debated today.

The Bill’s proponents claim it will remove competition from the NHS and guard against “privatisation” by repealing key clauses of the 2012 Health and Social Care Act.

We believe this would be a backwards step for patient care, reorganising the NHS in a top-down way at a time when it needs to be looking ahead to the huge challenges of the future. These were set out in the NHS England Five Year Forward View, and we urge all politicians to support it rather than using the NHS as a political football.

Suggesting that GP commissioners have a “privatisation agenda” is an ill-informed attack on the clinical leadership which improves services and helps patients.

Dr Michael Dixon
Chairman, NHS Alliance
Dr Jonathan Steel
Dr Barbara Rushton

GP and Chairman, South Eastern Hampshire CCG
Dr Ivan Camphor
GP and medical secretary of the Mid-Mersey Local Medical Committee
Dr Jude Mahadarachi
Dr P Charlson
Dr Gillian Francis
Dr Andrew Hardie
Dr Priyada Pandya
Dr John Mosley
Mr Sheo Tibrewal

Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon
Professor Simon Taylor-Robinson
Consultant Hepatologist

Parental blushes

SIR – Paddington is rated PG. Having been to see the film Mr Turner, which has a 12 rating (with accompanying adult), I wonder how anyone could feel that the gratuitous sex scene would be suitable for any age.

Annie May
Macclesfield, Cheshire

Hit and miss exchanges

SIR – I took part in four foreign exchanges in the Seventies. After graduating, I took a postgraduate degree in France, which would have been impossible without the knowledge absorbed through exchange.

The language skills I learnt have been enormously useful throughout my professional life.

N R Clift
London EC2

SIR – The day my German exchange arrived in 1976, Field Marshal Montgomery died. Throughout her visit, the television, radio and press were filled with Second World War stories, endless images of tanks, battles and Nazis.

These days, I speak passable French and Italian but no German.

Hilary Bentley
Alderney, Channel Islands

Why pubs are closing

SIR – Even if the Small Business Bill is passed, I do not believe it will make a noticeable difference to the rate at which pubs are closing. The proposed legislation affects tenants of companies that own more than 500 pubs, so it will have an impact only on a small proportion of pubs.

But replacing beer ties with higher rents could actually be a positive development. In the current system, tenants pay breweries or pubcos for every pint served. The more beer that is sold, the higher the payment. Should the legislation go through, causing breweries and pubcos to offset their loss of income by charging higher rents, every pint sold in excess of the expected sales will result in extra profit for the publican.

The fact is that there are too many pubs. Supply outstrips the demand, so inevitably some publicans struggle to make a living. If the Government is simply trying to stem the alarming rate at which pubs are reported to close, it would do better to ensure that the economy remains buoyant.

Larissa Lowe
Thomas Eggar solicitors
Crawley, West Sussex

Online GP errors

SIR – Readers should be aware that information in the Care Quality Commission ranking of GPs online is not always to be trusted.

My own practice was downgraded because the CQC thought that none out of 68 patients asked in the latest GP Patient Survey was able to obtain an appointment or speak to a GP or nurse. The correct figure (available on the GP Patient Survey website) is 63 out of 68 patients, which, at 92 per cent, is the second best score in the county. As they say: garbage in, garbage out.

The Care Quality Commission calls this process “intelligent monitoring”, but I’m not sure that “intelligent” is the word I would use.

Dr Jonathan Sleath

A Pre-Raphaelite lets his hair down on screen

SIR – At a recent screening of Effie Gray, I was interested to see portrayed a long-haired and bearded John Everett Millais (above right).

The John Ruskin portrait by Millais, which was shown being painted in the film, is dated 1853-4. Contemporary representations of Millais by William Holman Hunt in pastel and chalk (left), and a medallion by Alexander Munro both show him clean-shaven with short hair. He appears similarly in photographs. On the other hand, the more hirsute Barbizon artist Jean-François Millet sported a fine head of long hair and full facial adornments. Was this artistic licence?

Martin Adlam
Winforton, Herefordshire

Potholes and a dearth of buses outside London

SIR – This week, many south-western roads and fields have been flooded. In Devon, most roads are filled with potholes.

The Dawlish railway line has yet again been under siege by storms and the new sea wall has been damaged.

Urban councils receive 40 per cent more funding per head from the central government than rural councils do, which means that Devon county council has to choose to prioritise services for the needy above road maintenance.

Londoners enjoy a massive per-head public investment in transport, and have more transport links available to them than anywhere else in the country. In 2011, for example, the per capita subsidy for Londoners was £2,730, while in the South West it was just £19. The North will get a billion-pound boost from HS2 and HS3.

Is it any wonder that the rest of Britain feels oppressed by the metropolitan elite?

Linda Hughes
Newton Abbot, Devon

SIR – While motorists will surely welcome a new government initiative to improve Britain’s roads one would hope that this £15 billion will not be spent entirely on widening motorways and brand-new road schemes.

Throughout the country, the majority of existing roads are in a deplorable state and urgently in need of major repair.

Richard James
Nailsea, Somerset

SIR – “They walk between stations in Paris” is the excuse for terminating HS2 at Euston and not St Pancras for onward travel to Europe.

The distance between these stations – five furlongs – is too short to take the Undergound or bus and too long for some with luggage to walk, possibly in the rain. Some form of free shuttle, light railway or covered travelator would be helpful.

Stuart Robertson
Aboyne, Aberdeenshire

Bank fine? Not fine

SIR – Royal Bank of Scotland has been fined millions of pounds for its computer failings.

Because of the bail–out in 2008, the taxpayer owns two thirds of RBS. Thus the taxpayer pays the fine.

Those responsible pay nothing. It’s a meaningless paper–shuffling exercise.

Ian Anderson
Wick, Gloucestershire

Gnashing sachets

SIR –I’d like a ban on all sauces produced in sachets.

They are nearly impossible to open without the use of your teeth, and then produce a most unsatisfying smudge of your favourite condiment. I am not sure about their green credentials either.

Sam Kirkaldy
Sevenoaks, Kent

Irish Times:

Sir, – When the original water charges were announced the Government went to great lengths to inform the public that the charges had been set by an independent regulator. Much play was made of the word “independent”. The new water charging regime was determined by the Government not the independent regulator. Why do we need a regulator when the Government for political reasons takes unto itself the role of setting the water charging arrangements and tariffs. Sadly the “independence” of the regulator is another casualty of this great water debacle. – Yours , etc,


Blackrock, Co Dublin.

Sir, – If memory serves, the justification given by the Government for water charges was to conserve this wonderful natural resource by charging per unit, encouraging us to be economical in its use. It now seems the new charges are to pay the salaries at Irish Water. – Yours, etc,



Co Kildare.

Sir, – The news that local authorities will be obliged to pursue council tenants who do not pay their water charges should not unduly worry anyone, if past experience is anything to go by (“Council tenants face rent increases and possible eviction if water bills not paid”, November 20th).

In the 1980s and early 1990s, Kildare County Council levied water and refuse charges. There was a well-organised campaign of non-compliance, and such was its scale that the local authority was reluctant to take people to court. It threatened to have the charges levied against the property so that in the event of a sale they could be recovered.

Of course, this never happened, which meant that those of us foolish enough to have paid them effectively made a “voluntary contribution” to the authority’s coffers. If this was the experience when it pursued money it was owed, it’s hard to see a more enthusiastic response when it’s someone else’s money. – Yours, etc,



Co Kildare.

Sir, – We have a known cap on charges to 2019 and a promise of a future cap beyond. Against that background, one has to ask the question why we are spending millions of euro on water meters and their ongoing installation, which is a red rag to a bull to the general public when their value and use are rendered obsolete by these new proposals. – Yours, etc,


Foxrock, Dublin 18.

Sir, – The row about water charges puts me in mind of a trait that has been shared by successive Fine Gael leaders. That of naivety. From Fitzgerald to Bruton to Kenny, Fine Gael leaders have steadfastly believed in the decency and good sense of the Irish citizen and legislated accordingly. They all came a cropper as a result. Fianna Fáil leaders like Haughey and Ahern have always had an instinctive understanding of the Irish people. They knew that we don’t want to pay more for decent public services – we want disposable income and lots of it. And, boy, did Bertie oblige us. As the health service stagnated we gorged ourselves on treats – drink, restaurants, holidays and cars. We all drank at the trough and we loved it.

With regard to Irish Water, Enda Kenny needs to understand what Fianna Fáil leaders have always understood: disposable income matters to the Irish; public services do not. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 4.

Sir, – Colm McCarthy writes, “There are numerous industries in Ireland which must inevitably be operated as monopolies. These include electricity transmission and distribution, the gas network and the water industry” (“Water charging arrangements will prove to be temporary”, Opinion & Analysis, November 20th).

Equating finite, concentrated, fossil fuel and a renewable, widely distributed resource like water in this context is guff of the highest order. A citizen may haul water from a well with no more capital than the price of a bucket; comparing this to drilling rigs, gas wells, pipelines, pumping stations and the capital-intensive infrastructure required to extract, process, move, store and deliver fossil fuel is laughable.

In Ireland tens of thousands of households provide their own water individually, or collectively as part of community-owned cooperatives. In France, 36,681 communes provide drinking water and manage waste water. Only in Ireland, and perhaps North Korea, would public administrators and academics think that the best way to deliver a widely distributed, renewable resource to a widely distributed population is by an “efficient” centralised monopoly. The real surprise is not that Irish Water turned into another HSE but that anyone thought any other outcome was likely. – Yours, etc,


Kilnaleck, Co Cavan.

Sir, – This week, Senator Paul Bradford warned us, “We must not give in to mob rule now of extreme left-wing socialists who look back to a panacea of the Soviet Union and North Korea”. Noel Coonan TD then warned us “we are facing what is potentially an Isis situation”.

And they say Leinster House is a dull, humourless place! – Yours, etc,


Chapelizod, Dublin 20.

Sir, – Has the Government calculated how much it will cost the exchequer to administer the €100 rebate or has it not thought that far ahead? – Yours, etc,


Malahide, Co Dublin.

Sir, – “Taoiseach tells Ministers to go out and sell revised water charges to public” (Front Page, November 20th). Good luck with that one, lads. I just hope you’re not on commission. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 16.

Sir, – I refer to Kathy Sheridan’s article “Telling the grim truth about prostitution” (Opinion & Analysis, November 19th). As a “much-loved daughter of middle Ireland” myself, I strongly oppose the views expressed and the overall tone of the piece.

Poverty drives women into the industry, and it is this which we “lefty liberals” must seek to eradicate, not consenting adults having sex. It’s very clear that Ms Sheridan finds sex work distasteful, to put it mildly. However, this debate is not about how any one person feels about the trade, it’s about the right to work in safety, a right currently denied and which will continue to be denied under the new legislation.

The further assertion made that “significant numbers are drawn in as children under 18” is false, and used by abolitionists around the world. Last year Turn off the Red Light repeatedly claimed that there were 19 victims of child prostitution in the Republic of Ireland. The then minster for justice Alan Shatter told them to stop using that figure because it simply was not true.

Finally, Ms Sheridan speaks of those who can’t be doing with “peer-reviewed studies”. I find that assertion ironic, because the evidence from around the world points to decriminalisation as a preferred model to protect the most vulnerable in the industry. That evidence comes from the World Health Organisation, the UN Aids body, and medical journals, to name but a few.

It’s clear from recent communications from Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald’s office that it is her intention to press ahead with the criminalisation of clients. Were this to happen, those who are already vulnerable will suffer all the more, as I explained to the Minister in person last week. In the end, good law must never be based on an ideological sending of a “message”, rather it should be based on evidence. Evidence which is in abundance. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – I’ve never watched Love/Hate so I’ll have to accept Kathy Sheridan’s description of episodes from it. Certainly, if the State hadn’t made the disastrous mistake of criminalising recreational drugs – if drugs were  taxed, controlled and regulated, with addictive drugs available to registered addicts to be taken in a controlled setting – fewer people of whatever social class would be forced into prostitution to pay for them. And it’s undoubtedly true that prostitution – like indeed many other lifestyle-choices – is not a path that most people would want to encourage members of their family to go down.

The proposed “Swedish model” legislation will hurt people who have no economic alternative to selling sexual services, as well as customers who may get caught in the net. (Significantly, it will offer some disabled people, who may have no other outlet for physical intimacy, an unpalatable choice between criminality and perpetual celibacy.)

The example Kathy Sheridan gives of the illegality of the trade in human organs is not well chosen, since if the proposed legislation were applied to that trade, it would result in the absurdity that I would be allowed to sell my kidney, but someone suffering from kidney failure would be arrested for trying to buy it!

This is a complex area and the discussion needs to take full account of the complexities. The debate should of course objectively weigh up the relevant evidence, but it should also focus on the central issue of the limitations of law regarding voluntary, private relations between adults, without being sidelined into other issues. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 8.

Sir, – Prostitution is a gender issue, a class issue and an ethnic issue. It is overwhelmingly men who buy sex, and mainly poor women from impoverished regions of the world who are involved in prostitution. As someone who for many years has been involved in researching prostitution and violence against women, my concern is that forthcoming Irish legislation must challenge the subordination and degradation of women, especially in relation to those from disadvantaged groups.

The flow of foreign women into Ireland for the purpose of prostitution started in the early 2000s, and coincided with the Irish prostitution industry moving from street to indoor prostitution. What we now have in Ireland is a highly lucrative, internet-based, indoor prostitution trade worth an estimated €180 million. The networks of control are highly internationalised. Irish indigenous criminals are linked to eastern European, central European and African gangs. These networks ensure a highly ethnicised prostitution sector in Ireland. A staggering 51 separate nationalities of women are involved, with between 800 and 1,000 women engaging in prostitution at any one time.

Prostitution is not only about payment of money for sex. It is about economic and sexual power and the ability to give commands and control women. It assumes that men are entitled to have their sexual needs met through the paid bodies of women, and that there should be a special group of women available for this purpose.

The psychological, physical and emotional damage that prostitution causes to women is well documented.

The prostitution industry is based on inequalities between women and men. Such inequalities arise from poverty, the increasing sexualisation and pornographication of female bodies in popular culture, and from histories of violent abuse in both childhood and adulthood that underpin many women’s entry into the sex industry.

Prostitution is, therefore, both a cause and consequence of gender inequality. Criminalising the purchase of sexual acts, decriminalising those who sell, and providing specialist support to women to be able to leave prostitution are measures that directly address gender inequalities. – Yours, etc,




Co Cork.

Sir, – As the immigration debate returns to the forefront of American political debate, I note that you refer in several of your reports to “undocumented” Irish people in the United States (“Obama paves way for illegal Irish immigrants to visit home”, Front Page, November 21st).

Do you also refer to migrants who are illegally resident in Ireland as “undocumented”? “Undocumented” is a euphemism that seeks to obscure the fact that the people being described are illegal immigrants.

There is lots of room for debate about whether the immigration policies of the United States – or of Ireland – are just. But weasel words never help. – Yours, etc,


Washington, DC.

Sir, – I see the Taoiseach has called on the US president to allow undocumented Irish immigrants to return home on visits pending a new immigration and citizenship system being established. Perhaps as an encouragement to Mr Obama, Mr Kenny he would do the same for undocumented immigrants into Ireland. – Yours, etc,


Cabra, Dublin 7.

Sir, – The Taoiseach hopes US president Barack Obama will help the undocumented Irish in the United States by allowing them a path to citizenship and the right to travel back and forth to Ireland in the meantime. If that is the case then there would be no difference between the privileges of an illegal immigrant and a legal one.

Why is there an expectation that undocumented Irish should have such “rights” when they wilfully violated the law by immigrating illegally to the US in the first place? Like Ireland, there is no guaranteed right for anyone born outside of the US to live there but only through the application process put into place. The Taoiseach and I would surely agree that Ireland’s borders and immigration processes should also be respected.

The Taoiseach could also do a great deal of service to Irish citizens by holding them to a higher standard than lawbreaking. While it is easy to feel sorry for those who can’t travel home to their native land for a friend’s wedding or a family funeral, let us not forget their irresponsibility in not thinking things through long before overstaying a 90-day holiday visa. – Yours, etc,



New Jersey.

Sir, – In light of the US decision to seek to regularise the lives of thousands of undocumented Irish living in America, can our Government be inspired by this and regulate the lives of asylum seekers in our country who have for years been left living in limbo awaiting a decision about their case, living in unsuitable accommodation, without the right to work and having to survive on less than €20 a week? – Yours, etc,



Dublin 24.

Sir, – Regarding Frank McNally’s droll piece about the use or non-use of the humble comma (An Irishman’s Diary, November 21st), I’m reminded of that classic newspaper account of a documentary about country music legend Merle Haggard, which contained this quite ambiguous sentence: “Among those interviewed were his two ex-wives, Kris Kristofferson and Robert Duvall”. I think the use of the Oxford comma in that particular sentence would have eliminated any misunderstanding about the relationship between Messrs Haggard, Kristofferson, and Duvall. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, — Further to Ronan McGreevy’s report “Call for Dublin’s Spire to be renamed ‘An Claidheamh Soluis’” (November 16th), why rename a superfluous monstrosity which is neither inspiring or enlightening? – Yours, etc,


Dublin 12.

Irish Independent:

Every now and again you hear someone say that a person ‘needs a hug’. It’s become a sarcastic put-down, depicting a needy or over- precious, self-involved mini-me mentality.

Given the battering we as a people have taken, no one should be surprised at the need for a little TLC. In fact, the Civil Defence should be on every street corner handing out comfort blankets and we should be getting envelopes with happy pills – remember the iodine? The default position for most of us when put under pressure is to pull up the drawbridge and retreat behind whatever emotional shield we can find. As REM sang, ‘everybody hurts sometime’. But where do we go to find the strength to keep on keeping on?

The voice from the pulpit has spoken over the heads of the people for too long, it now bounces back with a hollow ring. Pope Francis is trying very hard but the old guard are holding him back. The Dalai Lama is also living proof that rocky is the road of the peace maker. Perhaps we have become too used to being followers. If we just reached out more to each other – having first reached into ourselves – we might find the connections to the real truths that give meaning to our private struggles. We are the culmination of the efforts of all who have gone before us, and our children need us to lay down safe and peaceful paths.

Didn’t some long-haired bohemian from another time say love thy neighbour; and then there was that Scouser who said ‘all you need is love’.

A smile, a baby’s gurgle, a child’s reaching arms, a hand-shake or even a friendly greeting can be enough to lift a leaden heart. So let none of us say we can’t do our bit.

M O’Brien

Greystones, Co Wicklow

When will Kenny see ‘reason’?

I have spent the last two days listening to my Government implying I am not being “reasonable” with respect to the current water charges issue. My husband and I both work full-time so we can afford to run our modest family home and pay for the significant mortgage shortfall on the apartment we unfortunately bought in 2008 before the property crash (which the government and banks directly caused). Is that not reasonable to Mr Kenny?

We pay property tax and tax on any rental income on a property we do not want, but which we cannot sell due to negative equity and the fact that the Government has done nothing to help us and people like us. Is that not reasonable to Mr Kenny?

I have my child in full-time childcare which breaks my heart every day. I also cannot give my child a brother or sister as we cannot afford the childcare costs it would incur with us both having to work to meet bills. Is that not reasonable to Mr Kenny?

I spent eight years gaining an advanced education in order to contribute to this economy and earn enough money to support my family. Despite a recent salary increase, I receive only €60 per month extra take-home pay due to the significantly increased PAYE and USC I must pay. I still cannot afford to pay into a pension fund despite being in my 30s now. Is that not reasonable to Mr Kenny?

And now, because I am refusing to spend what very little disposable income I have on yet another tax for water charges – which I already pay for many times over in the array of other taxes I pay – Mr Kenny and his Government imply that I, and others like me, are unreasonable. Shame on them. Enough is enough. It is Mr Kenny and this Government who are not being “reasonable”.

Elaine McSherry

Dublin 24

Time to call off the protests

The anti-austerity, anti-water charges groups have succeeded in their campaign. They have to be credited with harnessing the public anger and forcing the Government to make the changes recently announced.

But now they should fold up the tent and get off the stage.

We have to be honest and recognise that we have to pay something towards the provision of clean, drinkable water. There is no pot of money available through higher or alternative taxes. They have won the war; let them keep their powder dry for future battles.

Eamonn Kitt

Tuam, Co Galway

New package, same charges

With great fanfare, the Government announced the new water charges on Wednesday.

At first glance, I thought it was good, with the cost being reduced to €3.70 per 1,000 litres, plus the payment of the €100 ‘conservation grant’ – but how that is going to encourage conservation, I have no idea.

On a quick calculation I estimated that I would be paying less than originally envisaged, when the first charges were announced – or so I thought. Then later, I realised that they were abolishing the 30,000 free litres for each household and the water charges tax relief announced in the last Budget.

So, I re-calculated and found that if a two-person household used 70,270 litres in a year, this would cost €260, less the ‘conservation grant’, meaning a net cost of €160.

Then I calculated the same usage under the original charges, allowing myself the free 30,000 litres, and charging the remaining 40,270 litres at €4.88 per 1,000 litres and arrived at a sum of €196.52, less tax relief of €39.30, giving me a net cost of €157.22.

Unbelievably, the new charging structure is costing households more, where they only use up to 70,270 litres, and it is the same result for single-occupant households where they only use up to 43,240 litres. The way the new charges were announced, you would have thought that every household was going to have lower charges. Not so, and this Government thinks it has all been put to bed now.

Frank Fitzpatrick

Portmarnock, Co Dublin

At least we can still have a bath

So convinced am I that Enda is right, I did it. So convinced am I that Leo has the health of the nation back on track, I did it. And so convinced am I that Michael will have money gushing back into the economy, I did it.

Yes folks, I stared down my own financial demons, ripped off the financial shackles that held me down so long, looked to the future with confidence and, and . . . had a bath. On behalf of the Irish people, I would like to thank the Troika for bringing us back to the Promised Land.

Eugene McGuinness

Address with editor

Balance so lacking in the media

The hysteria being promoted by the Irish media in relation to the water charges in a country that has had an €80bn bailout and is, as a consequence over-borrowed, shows the Irish media in very bad light.

The lack of any balance in the coverage of the Irish water issue is nearly as damaging to the health of our democracy as the failure of most of the Irish media to challenge the decisions of the powerful during the boom, since those decisions eventually bankrupted the country and necessitated the bailout.

A Leavy

Sutton, Dublin 13

Pledge to protect our children

I was delighted to see the Taoiseach found time to meet Louise O’ Keeffe, who won her long struggle for justice in the European Court of Human Rights. After listening to her interview on ‘Prime Time’, I do hope Mr Kenny and his Government take on board every word this brave lady had to say and come up with some positive answers before Christmas, as promised. Remember, this is about protecting vulnerable children in our schools.

Brian Mc Devitt

Glenties, Co Donega

Irish Independent


November 21, 2014

21 November 2014 Vet

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left toe I am stricken with gout. But I manage to get to do the housework and I take Fluff and Kitten to the Vet. I do the Post Office and the Co Op

Mary’s back much better today, breakfast weight down trout for tea and her back pain is still there but decreasing.


  1. s

The Duchess of Alba – obituary

The 18th Duchess of Alba was a flamboyant Spanish aristocrat who married both an unfrocked priest and a man 24 years her junior

The Duchess of Alba with her third husband, Alfonso Diez Carabantes

The Duchess of Alba with her third husband, Alfonso Diez Carabantes Photo: EUROPA PRESS/GETTY

12:18PM GMT 20 Nov 2014


The 18th Duchess of Alba, who has died aged 88, was Spain’s richest woman and a regular fixture in Hola! magazine and other gossip publications on account of her forthright character and colourful private life.

In later life, with her flamboyant manner and shock of frizzy hair (sometimes dyed a whimsical red, at other times a snowy white), the thrice-married Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart fascinated and appalled in almost equal measure.

Known for her piping, querulous voice and often outrageous clothes, she was frequently photographed at society weddings and at bullfights. Her passions were flamenco, horses and painting; she became the subject of a television series and a flamenco show based around her life.

Then, of course, there was her status as an exemplar of the plastic surgeon’s art. She always denied needing any assistance to enhance features which had once earned her a reputation as a beauty; and any suggestion to the contrary was considered an intrusion too far by most of the Spanish press. None the less, a website specialising in such matters claimed to have discovered evidence of a facelift, brow lift, rhinoplasties, lip injections, fat injections to the face and multiple injections of Botox. “She overdid it, obviously,” a family friend was quoted as saying.

The Spanish media estimated the duchess’s wealth at between €600 million and €3.5 billion; her landholdings were said to be so vast that she would have been able to cross Spain from north to south without setting foot on anyone else’s property.

According to the Guinness Book of Records, she had more titles than any other person on the planet, being a duchess seven times over, a countess 22 times and a marquesa 24 times. Yet the Duchess always insisted she was not rich: “I have a lot of artworks, but I can’t eat them, can I?” she once said. Apart from thousands of paintings by Goya, Velazquez, Titian and others lining the walls of her numerous palaces, her collection included a first edition of Don Quixote, Columbus’s first map of America and the last will and testament of Ferdinand the Catholic, the father of Catherine of Aragon.

As head of the five centuries-old House of Alba, the Duchess’s privileges included not having to kneel before the Pope and the right to ride a horse into Seville cathedral. It was also said that, owing to her illustrious lineage, she was entitled to demand ceremonial precedence over the Spanish royal family. But she made little use of these historic perks, preferring the delights of a high-rolling lifestyle that began in England where her father, the 17th Duke of Alba, was Spanish ambassador during the Second World War.

The Duchess of Alba, c. 1947 (GETTY/HULTON ARCHIVE)

María del Rosario Cayetana Paloma Alfonsa Victoria Eugenia Fernanda Teresa Francisca de Paula Lourdes Antonia Josefa Fausta Rita Castor Dorotea Santa Esperanza Fitz-James Stuart y de Silva Falcó y Gurtubay was born in her family’s neo-Classical Palacio de Liria in Madrid on March 28 1926, the only child of Don Jacobo Fitz-James Stuart y Falcó, 17th Duke of Alba, and Doña María del Rosario de Silva y Gurtubay, 9th Marquesa of San Vicente del Barco. Her godmother was Queen Victoria Eugenia of Spain.

On her father’s side, Cayetana was a descendant of King James II of England through his illegitimate son James Fitz-James, Duke of Berwick, born of a relationship with Arabella Churchill, only sister of the Duke of Marlborough. This made her a distant relative of both Sir Winston Churchill and Diana, Princess of Wales, descendants of Arabella’s daughter Henrietta Fitz-James.

Other ancestors included Don Fernando Alvarez de Toledo, 3rd Duke of Alba, known as “the Iron Duke” on account of the ruthlessness with which he put down revolt as governor of the Spanish Netherlands from 1567 to 1573, and Doña María del Pilar de Silva, 13th Duchess of Alba, a muse of Francisco Goya.

Cayetana did not have a happy childhood. Her mother died when she was eight, and three years later her father (a fervent monarchist who had served briefly under King Alfonso XIII as minister for foreign affairs in the government of General Dámaso Berenguer) took her to London, where he had been appointed ambassador for the Spanish Nationalist government.

The Duchess of Alba on her marriage to Don Pedro Luis Martínez de Irujo y Artacoz, 1947 (REX)

He was still the ambassador in 1940 when the British government recognised Franco’s regime, and the pair remained in London during the Second World War. In 1945, however, the Duke resigned his post, declaring that the Franco regime was “harmful to the best interests of Spain” after negotiations with the exiled pretender to the Spanish throne, Don Juan de Bourbon, whose claims the Duke had supported, broke down.

During the Spanish Civil War, the Albas’ Liria Palace had been occupied by the communists, and for that reason it was almost completely destroyed by German bombers in 1936. The Duke had taken the precaution of storing its priceless collection of paintings in the cellars of the Prado and the Bank of Spain, but around half the palace’s literary collection was destroyed and many other items were looted. On his return to Spain the Duke set about rebuilding the palace according to the original plans, work carried on after his death by Cayetana. It was largely due to her persistence that the palace remained a private residence.

Cayetana was considered a beauty in her youth and was reputed to have had a lively love life. In 1947 she married Don Pedro Luis Martínez de Irujo y Artacoz, a naval officer and son of the Duke of Sotomayor, in a ceremony at Seville Cathedral which cost an estimated £2 million in today’s terms and was described at the time as “the most expensive wedding in the world”. The ceremony was so grand that there was concern it would overshadow the nuptials of Britain’s future Queen, held a month later in austerity Britain.

The bride wore a white satin gown modelled on the dress worn by Napoleon III’s bride Empress Eugénie. After the ceremony the couple travelled through cheering crowds to the bride’s family’s Seville palace of Las Dueñas in a carriage pulled by mules.

The Duchess of Alba in 2011 (REX)

Cayetana succeeded as Duchess of Alba on her father’s death in 1953, and she and her first husband had five sons and a daughter. However, the father of her fourth son, Fernando, was widely rumoured to have been not her husband but the Sevillian flamenco dancer Antonio el Bailarin, who acknowledged his parentage in posthumously published memoirs. When the information was subsequently repeated in an article in the Spanish magazine Interviú, however, a Spanish court awarded the Duchess €90,000 in damages, describing the offending piece as an assault on her honour.

Her first husband died in 1972, and six years later the Duchess shocked Spanish society by marrying Jesus Aguirre y Ortiz de Zarate, an unfrocked Jesuit priest and freethinking intellectual 11 years her junior who had once been her confessor. It was not so much his dubious religious credentials that were considered scandalous, however, as the fact that he was illegitimate.

Yet their marriage was happy – so much so, in fact, that when Aguirre sent three love poems he had written for Cayetana to Julio Iglesias, asking him to set them to music, the singer refused, considering them too steamy. When, in 1988, the gossip pages reported strains in the marriage, Cayetana, then 62, responded: “We are happy, as happy as before. And, if you must know, we make love every night.” Except that “make” and “love” were not the words used.

After Aguirre’s death, in 2001, it was generally assumed that the Duchess, now in her mid-70s, would live her twilight years alone. But a few years later she was reported to be dating Alfonso Diez Carabantes, a minor civil servant in Spain’s department of social security and a man 24 years her junior. “When you get to know someone and you like them, you end up falling in love a little and I fell in love with him,” she revealed in a magazine interview in 2008.

On several occasions the Duchess’s children, apparently fearful of being separated from some of their inheritance by a man portrayed by detractors as a gold-digger, were said to have blocked the couple’s plans to tie the knot. In 2008 the House of Alba issued a statement saying that the relationship “was based on a long friendship and there are no plans to marry”. In June 2011 the Duchess’s youngest son, Cayetano, announced that his mother could not marry for a third time “owing to questions of historic responsibility”. At one point Spain’s King Juan Carlos was alleged to have telephoned the Duchess to urge her to think again.

The Duchess was resentful of her children’s interference, noting, pointedly, that they had all been divorced; so, by implication, they had no right to give her moral lectures. “I don’t know why my children are causing problems,” she complained on Spanish radio. “We aren’t hurting anyone. Alfonso doesn’t want anything, he’s renounced everything. He doesn’t want anything but me.”

In August 2011, however, the prospect of a damaging rift in Spain’s most prominent noble house appeared to have been averted after a deal was made under which the Duchess agreed to divide up her fortune between her children in advance of her death — and her groom renounced any possible claim to her wealth.

She and Diez then married, and after the wedding in Seville she entertained onlookers by kicking off her shoes and hiking up her dress to perform a flamenco dance outside her palace.

The Duchess is survived by her husband and children. Her eldest son, Carlos Fitz-James Stuart, 14th Duke of Huéscar, born in 1948, inherits the Alba titles.

The 18th Duchess of Alba, born March 28 1926, died November 19 2014


Members of the EU Parliament in Strasbourg ‘Abolish the Strasbourg parliament,’ suggests John Rowe. Photograph: Frederick Florin/AFP/Getty Images Photograph: Frederick Florin/AFP/Getty Images

Alistair Darling is right to stress the disastrous consequences of Britain leaving the EU (We’re better together with Europe, so must learn from Scotland, 18 November), and he’s just as correct in saying that those of us who recognise this (at least 50% of the population, according to the polls) need to get much, much noisier about saying so, while stressing the need for significant reform.

However, Mr Darling remains as obscure as most politicians and commentators on what such EU reform might look like. A far greater emphasis on growth, sure – but what would that actually look like? And what about the structural issues that underpin many people’s distrust of Europe? How about the Labour party adopting a policy that says we should: a) abolish the Strasbourg parliament, b) reduce the number of MEPs by a third, c) reduce their ridiculous salaries by a third, d) reduce their even more absurd expenses by half, and e), most important, abolish EU commissioners and make MEPs earn their corn by taking full responsibility for strategy and policy. They would have to elect their own president and allocate areas of responsibility. That might seriously reduce the unpopular movement towards ever-greater integration by ridding us of the unelected bureaucrats and the behind-closed-doors horse-trading about positions of power.

What savings and a huge increase in democratic accountability there would be. I’d then be interested to know what my north-west MEPs were actually doing and voting for, as well as who they had supported for key posts. It won’t happen, I know, but we might be surprised to find how many people across the EU thought it a good idea.
John Rowe

• One might have thought that creating a strong cross-party alliance on EU membership might come in handy in a future referendum, so what purpose is served by comparing the Scottish National party (pro-Europe) to Ukip (anti-Europe)? Labour needs to set aside its resentment of the SNP’s success if it is to win the argument for continued EU membership, and must come up with more convincing arguments than “reform” and “jobs and growth”, which are already EU priorities. The EU is pursuing similar neoliberal policies to those of New Labour, so what reforms does Labour think are now needed to convince British voters that the EU is acting in their interests? The Better Together campaign nearly failed in Scotland because it had no positive vision, and only rescued the situation through last-minute threats and promises that may or may not be delivered. So what is Labour’s vision for Britain in Europe?
Mary Braithwaite
Wye, Kent

• John Major claims that the current British anti-EU hysteria “is not a political ploy to gain advantages and concessions” (Major urges EU to realise that British frustration is ‘no game’, 14 November). But that is exactly what it is.

The chances of Britain leaving are minuscule. Should opinion polls indicate such a possibility in a referendum, the British establishment – which benefits greatly from EU membership – will press the panic button, as it did so successfully before the Scottish referendum. The media will suddenly be filled with daily horror stories of impending doom, economic collapse and isolation outside the EU.

London, the most global city in the world, would be more likely to secede from Ukip-land than accept Britain leaving Europe.
Jakob von Uexkull
Founder, World Future Council

• With all respect to the NUT, the GMB and the other signatories to the letter regarding the commission’s reactions to a proposed European Citizens’ Initiative regarding the transatlantic trade and investment partnership (We demand the right to challenge the TTIP, 18 November), a lawsuit would no doubt be costly and would not get very far. Far better to lodge their protest as a petition, under the terms of article 227 of the EU treaty, and ensure that the voice of citizens is heard where it belongs, in the European parliament. Indeed the parliament has, not surprisingly, registered several on this subject.

Not so long ago more than 2 million people signed a petition to the European parliament against Acta, the anti-piracy agreement, and that did not do so badly, having ensured an animated and well-informed debate in the petitions committee before a landmark vote in plenary session.

It does not help to confuse, as the authors also did, a petition and an ECI, but it is a common failing. The right to petition is a fundamental right of EU citizenship and open to all citizens and residents; the ECI, although defined in article 11 of the Lisbon treaty, is subject to an additional (and in my view too cumbersome) regulation that the commission has entirely respected in its decision. Check out the Europarl web-site; it is quite transparent.
David Lowe
Head of secretariat, petitions committee, European parliament

Peabody Trust housing for key workers in Baron's Place, London Peabody Trust housing for key workers in Baron’s Place, London. Photograph: Frank Baron for the Guardian

Nik Wood’s assertion that Peabody is contributing to London’s affordable housing crisis (Letters, 14 November) is incorrect. In fact we are building thousands of new affordable homes for Londoners. We are also investing £150m in improvements to residents’ homes and estates. Housing need extends across all tenures, and while we continue to provide new social housing we also provide intermediate and market rent as well as homes for sale on the open market. We also spend around £4m a year on community investment activities.

The rents on the properties we acquired from the crown estate in 2011 are intermediate rents for key workers capped at 60% of the market rent, with many tenants paying significantly less than that. Despite running these homes at a loss – spending more money than we receive in rental income – we have not applied the maximum rent increases set out in the sale agreement for the last two years. We are cutting rent increases again next year, and have reduced the rent where the level exceeds the local housing allowance limit for the area. In addition, we have invested over £7m on improvements to the former crown estate properties since 2011, with further investment planned in the coming years.

To correct a further inaccuracy, our surplus for 2013-14 was £35m (plus £256m, which is not cash but an accounting treatment that reflects the acquisition of Gallions housing association). Every penny we generate is reinvested to provide more affordable homes, and to enable us to continue our investment in quality homes, services and communities.
Stephen Howlett
Chief executive, Peabody

• We need a moratorium on property speculation in the UK while some sense is injected into the housing market. That might even limit the inevitable rise in the cost of housing benefit to the taxpayer. The application of free market principles to the provision of affordable homes to buy or to rent was certain to hurt tenants (Tenants face Christmas evictions after rent deal revoked, 17 November). The damage began on the day the Thatcher government abolished rent controls and allowed the free flow of national and international wealth into a housing market short on supply. Council estates that need refurbishment are now set for demolition for any reason councils short of funds can cook up.
Here in Tottenham the Love Lane estate must go, they say, to improve a deprived area and make way for a smart walkway from a new White Hart Lane station to the new Spurs football arena. This is not slum clearance but pure exploitation of the housing market by national and international property developers and landlords regardless of the need for affordable shelter of the sitting tenants, leaseholders, and those who bought the freehold since they had the right to buy.
Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty

• If Ed Miliband wants a cause to rally popular support, let’s hear him on the subject of the New Era estate, with an explanation of how social housing came to be flogged to a predatory US-based landlord, and an assurance that such a thing could never happen under a Labour government.
Jim Trimmer
Kingston upon Thames

• I’ve been saying to my WEA classes since 2010 that Labour’s next election slogan should be the winning “housing, housing, housing”.
David L Alfred

• There is a world of difference between Holyrood’s and Westminster’s approaches to the housing crisis. Last year, the Scottish government reintroduced a sufficient level of capital subsidy to ensure the future of affordable social rented accommodation both by housing associations and councils. “Affordable” means that someone in relatively low-paid employment or on a limited fixed income could be able to pay rent (of about £72-75 a week) and come off housing benefit. Simultaneously, the Scottish government scrapped the right to buy. The Westminster coalition, however, not only scrapped funding support for social housing in England but also extended the right to buy. And the Scottish government has maximised the use of discretionary housing payments to those seriously adversely affected by welfare reforms. These initiatives appear to have received if not cross-party support then at least only muted criticism from the other parties in Holyrood.
Craig Sanderson

06.08 GMT

The mayor of London’s view on Oxford Street’s air pollution has not changed, contrary to your report (Mayor chokes on own tweet over Oxford Street air, 14 November). The claim that it is the most polluted street in the world was erroneous and the mayor does not accept it. Letters between the mayor and Joan Walley MP have been taken completely out of context. He has never disputed the King’s College data, but has always been clear that this data was taken out of context and misrepresented repeatedly by the media. King’s College agrees that its data was misrepresented and reiterated this point to the London assembly’s environment committee just last week.

London has considerably lower levels of pollution than many world cities, as any reasonable analysis of international air quality shows, and Boris Johnson takes the problem extremely seriously. He is driving the most comprehensive and ambitious set of measures in the world to improve air quality, including tightening standards for buses, taxis and large vehicles and a new ultra-low-emission zone for central London, which includes Oxford Street and the surrounding roads from 2020.
Matthew Pencharz
Mayor’s senior adviser for environment and energy

Person looking at job vacancies in a newspaper ‘I was sacked from three jobs (for instance, for nibbling at the rounds of cheese when working in a grocer’s), yet each time was able to walk straight into another job,’ writes Dr Neil Redfern. Photograph: David Sillitoe for the Guardian

Reading Ian Jack’s column (Sorry, would-be sandwich makers: you’ll find it much harder to get a job than I did, 15 November) made me reflect on how much has changed with respect to employment opportunities and social mobility over the past 50-odd years. My CV illustrates this point perfectly. I left school in 1959, aged 15 with no qualifications. Over the next year or so I was sacked from three jobs (for instance, for nibbling at the rounds of cheese in the cellar when working as a shop assistant in a grocer’s), yet each time was able to walk into another job with no intervening periods of unemployment. Eventually, still with no educational qualifications, I was accepted for nurse training. I became a state registered nurse, qualifying in 1966. I wasn’t a very good nurse and sought new opportunities. After an uncertain period in which I, among other things, sold brushes door-to-door, worked as a labourer in a steel mill and suffered periods of unemployment, I had a stroke of good fortune in 1968 when, working as a clerk at a sportswear manufacturers, I was accepted for training as a computer programmer. I worked in information technology until 1989, when I went to Ruskin College (John Prescott’s alma mater) to study history. After 30 years, I had found my role. After 25 years’ studying, teaching and researching history, I am now a semi-retired university lecturer.
Dr Neil Redfern
Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire

• While Linda Tirado poignantly documents the pain and humiliation of poverty in the UK (G2, 17 November), she doesn’t go far enough in her analysis of its origins. Of course capitalism needs its winners and losers and of course at the moment the winners feel they can safely condemn the losers. But this is not because Paul Ryan or Iain Duncan Smith are more loathsome than other cheerleaders for the neoliberal bandwagon. There is nothing personal in their attacks but to argue that they mean well is ludicrous. They do what they do because it’s what the system requires. A fear of pauperisation is vital if people are to be persuaded not to reject whatever zero-hours contract or minimum-wage-plus-humiliation job they are offered, and there is no greater cause of fear than not being able to feed yourself or your children. How long before we see the Victorian workhouse making its reappearance?
Tony Owen

Road accident sign in London A road accident sign in London. There are more than a million road deaths worldwide each year, writes the Rev Barry Parker. Photograph: Antonio Olmos

With tragic irony, the road crash that claimed the lives of five teenagers near Doncaster on Saturday night (Report, 17 November) took place on the eve of the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, as well as the start of Road Safety Week. Instituted by the charity RoadPeace in 1993 and adopted by the UN in 2005, the Day of Remembrance is held annually on the third Sunday of November, and over 30 church services were held all over the UK last Sunday. At the event I attended in Barnsley, just a few miles from the crash site, we were reminded that the grief and trauma felt by the victims’ families and friends are intensified by the fact that in nearly every case such road deaths are entirely avoidable given good conduct, discipline and law enforcement. Small charities such as RoadPeace and Brake can do little to raise awareness of the need for safe roads, which are needed to protect us all as road users. Death and injury are a national and a worldwide tragedy, and governments and statutory organisations have a major role to play. The worldwide toll of well over 1 million road traffic deaths each year indicates we have many miles to go before we can say that this collective agony has been brought under some sort of control. It will be good to hear what our government is doing or plans to do to meet this urgent requirement.
Rev Barry Parker

Mylene Klass Does Myleene Klass face a choice between downsizing and paying a mansion tax?

While a Guardian guide to the erosion of public services by private corporations would be very useful (Letters, 19 November), there is some research already out there on who owns Britain and who sold it. George Monbiot’s 2000 book Captive State: The Corporate Takeover of Britain answers many of Richard Gravil’s questions. Our own book The Trojan Horse: The Growth of Commercial Sponsorship updates Monbiot’s work, and has a useful appendix which lists the key “providers” and their role in public services.
Deborah Philips Professor of literature and cultural history, University of Brighton
Garry Whannel Professor of media arts, University of Bedfordshire

• Myleene Klass is clearly very exercised by the possibility of a future Labour government giving her rich friends and herself the choice between downsizing or paying a mansion tax (Miliband bruised in Klass war over tax, 19 November). Presumably she is equally exercised by the current Tory-led government’s offer to those at the opposite end of the financial spectrum of the choice between downsizing or paying a bedroom tax.
Professor Jennifer Jenkins

• Hugh Muir should not be surprised by the chatter at the O2 (Notebook, 18 November). The whole atmosphere at the Barclays-sponsored tennis event was crass, from the loud music played at intervals to the dramatised announcements of the players and their obvious embarrassment as each led a small child by the hand while entering the arena. Perhaps next year we can expect cheerleaders.
Ron Houghton

• If that really is a photograph of “Sea and sky in harmony at Alnwick” (Weatherwatch, 19 November), global warming has far exceeded even the wildest forecasts. Last time I checked, Alnwick was five miles inland.
John Mathieson

• The gender-neutral pronoun in widespread use is not the Esperantesque “ze” (Shortcuts, G2, 18 November) but “they”, used as a singular: ugly but effective.
Guy Dugdale


Well now, that’s a surprise! Having bought for a song the UK’s favourite postal system with its major USP and time-honoured universal delivery system, the “new” Royal Mail looks set to be gearing up to shear off this encumbrance so as to streamline itself to battle upstarts such as TNT and Amazon, which have the audacity to be cherry-picking its best routes.

Well, the buyers knew this was already happening perfectly well when they bought the business, and they knew that Royal Mail was not just any old parcel delivery outfit.

It’s time they used their privileged power base and (still) massive customer goodwill to do what they are expected to do, and compete professionally with the relative newcomers.

And let’s hope Ofcom does what it’s supposed to do in preserving the universal delivery system  at all costs.

Ian Bartlett

East Molesey, Surrey

The threat to the Royal Mail universal service is yet another demonstration that competition does not improve service.

As a scientist I discard  or modify hypotheses that do not stand up to observation. Why does the Tory party not do so with  its competition myth?

A A Chabot



I would like to add my  voice to those that have expressed concerns regarding the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

This agreement would expose our democratically elected government to non-democratic pressure from unaccountable multinational corporations, which would under its terms have recourse to suing this country over any policy that they felt to be against their interest.

Worse still, any such legal suit would be heard in secret under the auspices of the World Trade Organisation, an organisation that has historically been slavishly supine to the interests of big multinationals.

 Almost certainly, it would make reversal of the creeping steps already taken towards privatising our NHS open to challenge from commercial healthcare operators seeing themselves shut out of lucrative opportunities to further milk the British taxpayer; while re-nationalisation of our railways, utilities, or the Royal Mail – which, like many, I still harbour hope of one day seeing – would be nigh on impossible.

We expect the Tories to welcome the TTIP, because it is the party of big business. What I find seriously disquieting is Labour’s apparent acquiescence in this threat to our independence, which is at least as menacing as any posed by the EU.

When will Labour at long last show some backbone and stand up for the rights of ordinary people over powerful corporations, as it was founded to do?

Richard Trotman

Penistone, South Yorkshire


Bring back the era of belles lettres

The news that budget cuts and safety concerns are leading to a decline in the number of foreign exchanges at secondary school level, combined  with the appallingly low level of pupils’ foreign language competence reported by the National Foundation for Educational Research, is a sad sign of the growing insularity of UK secondary education (“The foreign exchange  trip is becoming passé for UK schoolchildren”,  18 November).

However, there is an alternative to group exchange visits. It is the tried-and-tested foreign  pen-friend arrangement. When I was in my final  year of primary school,  back in the late 1950s,  my class teacher, who had been doing some basic French with us, one day allocated to each pupil  the name and address  of a French school pupil roughly our own age.

Within just over a year, having completed my first year of French at secondary school, I was on my way solo to visit my pen friend, whose family had invited me over for part of the summer holiday period. My pen friend visited my family a couple of years later. He and I still correspond.

Times change, and some parents these days may be nervous about putting 12-year-old offspring on to an airplane to be greeted at the other end by people they hardly know.

Furthermore, letter writing may be tiresome and old hat to many secondary pupils. But the various forms of electronic communication that are now open to them, including Skype, could easily serve as a platform for schools to develop pen friendships with pupils in other countries.

David Head

Navenby, Lincolnshire

An extreme view of an ordinary school

Turning to the inside  pages of today’s paper (20 November), which carried the front page headline “Islamic extremism claims top C of E school”, I discovered the headline itself to be extreme. An Islamic Society set up by sixth formers does not constitute a takeover of  the school.

I also noted, but was not surprised by, the statistic that despite being a Church of England school 80 per cent of the pupils are Bengali Muslims, accompanied by the comment of your Education Editor that the school  was thus “reflecting the make-up of the community it serves”.

Hence my lack of surprise, because all Church of England schools seek to serve the local community as they are parish-based, not faith-based. The Church of England doesn’t have so-called faith schools. Other Christian denominations and other major faiths do have faith schools, but not the Church of England.

The only qualification required to benefit from the ministry of the Church of England, be that baptism, marriage, burial, pastoral care or, as in this instance, education, is that you live in the parish. Every citizen in this country is a parishioner and can call upon the services of the local parish church, by right. That is one of the huge benefits of the Church of England being the Established Church  of the land.

Canon Tony Chesterman

Lesbury, Northumberland 

No credit for hotels which take liberties

The case of the “hovel allegation surcharge”, in which a Blackpool hotelier attempted to debit an extra £100 from a guest who posted an unfavourable review, not only raises questions of just how critical one can be online – it also raises serious questions over credit card “authorisation”.

When I give an online retailer, an airline or a hotel the “authorisation” to make a deduction, it is for an agreed amount in return for a service. I assume a contract (real or implied) is created for that specific transaction and the agreed amount. I do not imagine I am giving a blank cheque to the retailer to plunder that account.

Recently a hotel in London pre-authorised my credit card for £100 above the cost of the room for “services I might use”. I had to agree, if I was to continue my stay, even though I had no intention of using “additional services”.

The hoteliers in Blackpool may be aggrieved by the tone of the review, but something must be done to protect consumers against retailers who use cards in this way.

Matthew Hisbent


If you don’t need fuel subsidy, pass it on

Trevor Pateman (letter,  19 November) is obviously in the fortunate position of not actually needing the £200 winter fuel payment, but according to AgeUK “on average, one older person will die every seven minutes from a cold-related illness this winter”, so for many pensioners the payment  is a life-saver.

The money is sent out just before Christmas as presumably a goodwill gesture and doesn’t have  to be used straight away  to pay for “winter fuel”.

Mr Pateman could  donate his payment to AgeUK, giving him a  warm glow by helping someone in real need.

Mary Gough

Watford, Hertfordshire


A donnish character, but no professor

Your report on a Cambridge don’s bequest of nearly £1m to the Liberal Democrats (14 November) refers to him several times as “Professor Watson”. George Watson was never a professor. He was a college and faculty lecturer in English, for 50 years a resident fellow of St John’s. He died not “in August”, as your report had it, but in August 2013.

A notable donnish character (who kindly invited me to dinner  once, when I had a literary history of Cambridge published), cultured, polymathic and of robust views, he received, so far as I can discover, surprisingly few, if any, obituaries in the national press.

Graham Chainey


Paddington’s too much? Oh no it’s not!

The British Board of Film Classification has awarded the Paddington Bear film a PG certificate. Have the BBFC’s members ever been to pantomime? Mild threat? What about the wicked queen, step-mother or ugly sisters? A man dressed as a woman? The Dame. A woman dressed as a man? Principal boy. Innuendo? “Ooer, missus, what a big one!” (beanstalk, pumpkin, cucumber). I despair.

Sue Thomas

Bowness on Windermere, Cumbria


Sir, The appalling and brutal murders carried out in a synagogue in Jerusalem during morning prayers this week (“Deaths push Jerusalem to brink of holy war”, Nov 19) are to be condemned in the strongest possible terms. The desecration of the sacred, taking life in a house of prayer, is the absolute antithesis of faith and of what we stand for. This attack on people at prayer is yet another example from across the globe of violence in the name of religion, which undermines religious freedom. We appeal to the believers of all traditions to denounce such attacks wherever in our world they take place and to call for an end to religiously motivated violence.

The Most Rev Justin Welby Archbishop of Canterbury
Ephraim Mirvis Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth
Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra

Sir, There is, rightly, outrage at the synagogue massacre; there should also be outrage at Benjamin Netanyahu’s response, which will ensure the cycles of “getting even” go on. It seems we are lacking a statesman capable not only of halting this spiral of violence but even understanding it.

Dominic Kirkham

Sir, Foreign secretary Philip Hammond calls for peace between the Palestinians and the Jews. Surely he should be calling for peace between Palestinians and Israelis, whether the Israelis be Jewish, Druze, Christian, Bahá’í or indeed Muslim. The tragedy is that a separate state called Palestine would not have such a variety of believers.

Tamara Selig
Stanmore, Middx

Sir, I have found that when someone shouts at me, shouting back rarely makes things better. My daughter is in Israel at present. I would feel more confident about her safety if the Israeli government took a more measured approach to the inexcusable terrorist murders.

James Goldman
London NW4

Sir, Thousands of Israelis, both Jews and Muslims, including the president and heads of both religions, attended the funeral of Zidan Saif, the Druze policeman killed in the attack. In this deeply conflicted part of the Middle East where the positions of the Arab Muslim and Israeli Jewish parties appear intractable, the Druze, a Muslim community living in Israel, should be seen as a model of cooperation on which to build.

Dr R Rosenfelder
London NW6

Sir, Your correspondent Catherine Philp puts the cart before the horse (“Jerusalem braced for holy war”, Nov 20). The conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbours did not begin as “territorial and political,” now “morphing into religious war.” Its origins were always fundamentally religious in nature — the notion of Jewish self-determination in any part of the “Dar el-Islam” [The House of Islam] being a challenge to Islamic jurisprudence.
Israel’s chief rabbinate may have forbidden Jews from entering the Temple Mount, but other rabbis have ruled differently. In any case, it is for each individual Jew to make up his or her mind on this issue. If Christians and Moslems can pray at this site, why not Jews?

Professor Geoffrey Alderman
University of Buckingham

Sir, It is 20 years since Baruch Goldstein slaughtered 29 Muslims and wounded 125 others as the prayed in the Mosque of Abraham in Hebron. His house was not demolished and though some of his supporters in the extreme right-wing Meir Kahane group were briefly held, it was the Palestinians of Hebron who were punished for this atrocity: their movements became ever more restricted, and half their mosque was converted into a synagogue.
As we rush to condemn those who have applauded the synagogue attack in Jerusalem, let us remember that Goldstein’s grave became a place of pilgrimage for Israeli settlers — more than 10,000 visited it before it was demolished by the Israeli government.

Brigid Waddams
Batcombe, Somerset

Sir, I see from your report that spending on lollipop ladies has been cut by more than 40 per cent. The last time I looked I was still a man.

Peter Richardson
Sale, Cheshire

Sir, I write with regard to your report on migration (Nov 19). First, the subject is understated by some media which refer simply to net migration, and second, there is unbalanced criticism of the EU by the failure to make a distinction between immigration from EU and non-EU countries.

For the year ending March 2014 there were 560,000 immigrants of whom almost half were from non-EU countries. The government can do nothing about EU immigrants while we remain within the EU. It does, however, have responsibility for non-EU immigration and it seems to have lost control of this. In the same year, 316,000 people left the UK, making it likely that the UK is less British by almost one million people. No wonder there is growing public concern.
Lord Kilclooney
House of Lords

Sir, The scale and consequences of the failures of Rotherham Council cannot be overstated (“Councils leaving children exposed to sex grooming”, Nov 19), but Ofsted’s contribution should not be ignored either. Since 2005, Ofsted produced 11 reports on safeguarding in Rotherham. In only one report, in 2009, were serious concerns raised and the following year these were said to have been addressed.

An unannounced inspection in 2012 of the council’s arrangements for the protection of children concluded that “the overall effectiveness of local authority arrangements . . . is adequate. Significant improvements have been made since 2009 […] These improvements have been driven by clear and resilient leadership and informed by a sound and realistic understanding of the needs of the local community”.

The sexual exploitation uncovered in Rotherham took place between 1997 and 2013. Who will shine a light on Ofsted?
John Gaskin
Bainton, E Yorks

Sir, I am baffled by the report that Sir Bruce Keogh will require surgeons’ death rates to be published (News, Nov 17). He is a serious surgeon with a track record of good sense. Why is something so extraordinary going out under his name?

Anyone who has worked in the NHS knows that avoidable postoperative complications are more related to nursing care than anything else, and that surgeons have little control over that.

Clearly a correct diagnosis has to be made, and the correct operation offered and performed by the surgeon. Once the last stitch is in, it’s over to nurses and physios to ensure success. Death rates will reflect the success of the team working together, not the skill of the surgeon.
Alastair Lack

Coombe Bissett, Wilts


With life expectancy on the rise, the country’s social care system is in crisis

Close up of an elderly lady's hands, affected by rheumatoid arthritis, holding a cup

The number of people over 85 in Britain is expected to double by 2030 Photo: Alamy

6:59AM GMT 20 Nov 2014


SIR – The ballooning figures for life expectancy at birth and at age 65 in England and Wales highlight the fact that the care of Britain’s ageing population needs to be addressed urgently.

The social care system is in crisis, with the number of over-85s expected to double by 2030. It will be the scandal of our generation if we do not act to meet the needs of our ageing population – after all, the younger people of today are simply the older people of tomorrow.

The Grey Pride campaign has called for the introduction of a minister for older people in Cabinet. This would provide someone who can take responsibility for joining up services that affect old people – health, social care, housing, transport.

We call on the three major parties to commit themselves to such an appointment in their election manifestos.

Jane Ashcroft
Chief Executive, Anchor
Janet Davies
Executive Director for Nursing & Service Delivery, The Royal College of Nursing
Professor Martin Green
Chief Executive, Care England
Malcolm Booth
CEO, National Federation of Occupational Pensioners
Nick Bunting
Secretary General, Royal Air Forces Association
Simon Bottery
Director of Policy and External Relations, Independent Age
Denise Keating
Chief Executive, Employers Network for Equality & Inclusion
Nigel Wilson
CEO, Legal & General
Michael Voges
Executive Director of Associated Retirement Community Operators
Bob Green
CEO, Stonewall Housing
David Orr
Chief Executive, National Housing Federation
Stephen Burke
Director, United for All Ages and Good Care Guide
Des Kelly
Executive Director, National Care Forum
Jeff Skipp
CEO, Deafblind UK
Sam Smethers
Chief Executive, Grandparents Plus
Colin Nee
Chief Executive, British Geriatrics Society
Paul Burstow MP
Liz Kendall MP
Dave Anderson MP
Nic Dakin MP
Jason McCartney MP
Dame Joan Ruddock MP
Tracey Crouch MP
Dame Angela Watkinson MP
Nick De Bois MP
Kevin Barron MP
Rosie Cooper MP
Alison Seabeck MP

Hilda Hayo
CEO, Dementia UK

The plight of religious minorities in the Middle East; equality between the sexes; how to save the eurozone; and an English lesson in 1960s chic

An Ultra-orthodox Jewish man puts his head in his hands, inside a synagogue that was attacked by two Palestinians in the ultra-Orthodox Har Nof neighbourhood in Jerusalem. Two Palestinians armed with a gun and meat cleavers burst into a Jerusalem synagogue and killed four Israelis before being shot dead in the bloodiest attack in the city in years.

An Ultra-orthodox Jewish man puts his head in his hands, inside a synagogue that was attacked by two Palestinians in the ultra-Orthodox Har Nof neighbourhood in Jerusalem Photo: JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images

7:00AM GMT 20 Nov 2014


SIR – On the day when four Jewish worshippers were slaughtered at prayer in a Jerusalem synagogue, the Church of England General Synod gathered to debate religious freedom and the plight of religious minorities in the Middle East.

A discussion paper had been circulated in advance, and we had invited a Muslim speaker to address us, in a historic step forward in inter-faith dialogue. Both the paper and the panel discussion upon it were measured, thoughtful and respectful.

The paper described religious freedom as the “canary in the mine”, which served as the measure of all other human rights.

The debate went well, except for one remarkable oversight: on that of all days, not a mention was made of our threatened Jewish brothers and sisters in the region.

I had tabled a question: “Is the canary in the mine Jewish?” but was not called.

Martin Sewell
General Synod Member, Rochester
Gravesend, Kent

SIR – David Blair writes that, in the present perilous situation in Jerusalem, Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, will “probably be a stabilising force”.

Not so. Mr Abbas regularly incites violence among the people of Judea and Samaria as well as those Arabs currently living in Israel.

To the West, he speaks moderation, but to his Muslim audience, Mr Abbas calls for more surprise attacks until Israel is vanquished. If anyone wishes to know the truth about Mr Abbas, they need only look at the English translations of Arab newspapers, television broadcasts and cartoons online.

Dr Elizabeth Stewart
Weston, Lincolnshire

SIR – John Kerry, the US secretary of state, blamed the Jerusalem synagogue attack on “incitement” by Palestinian leaders.

Raymond Solomon

SIR – I went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land recently, spending six nights in a Bethlehem hotel and commuting to the various Christian sites around Jerusalem and the West Bank before completing the trip in Tiberias. The hostility between the Israelis and the Palestinians was even more palpable this year than on my last trip two years ago, which is hardly surprising given what went on in Gaza this summer.

The thing that depressed me most of all was comparing notes with a pilgrim from Suffolk, who told me his group wouldn’t visit Bethlehem because their guide had told them that “it’s full of Muslims and they’re dangerous”. When asked, he confirmed that the guide was Israeli. I regard this as yet another example of Israel’s determination to starve the Palestinians into submission. I wish I knew the name of the tour company so I could expose its bigotry publicly.

Gabriel Herbert
London W12

Keeping men

SIR – Jacky Maggs argues that we need to stop vilifying women for the choices that they make regarding child care and work – that women need to be given a choice (Letters, November 18). I fully support her aims, but what about a man’s right to choose?

My son is destined to be a wage slave; my daughter, because she is female, will have a choice. We will only have equal numbers of women and men as FTSE 100 CEOs or government ministers when we have the same number of “kept” men as “kept” women.

Men are mainly judged by their careers, while women are judged on a broad range of issues, not all of them positive. Let’s start by judging women and men on the same basis; we will only achieve equality for women when we also have equality for men.

Kevin Ruff
Banbury, Oxfordshire

SIR – Of course no one commented on the way Karl Stefanovic, the Australian television presenter, was dressed. He was wearing his school uniform of dark suit, white shirt and dark tie. If he dared to wear different, brightly coloured clothes or appear without his tie, the wrath of the viewers would have descended on his head.

If the female presenters dressed conventionally and consistently wore a dark skirt suit and a smart blouse, they would attract as little comment as he did. Men in the public gaze only escape sartorial criticism if they conform to the very restricted view of “correct” male dress. There certainly is a gender divide in dress codes, but I would suggest that it is the men who are the victims.

Dr Steven Field
Wokingham, Berkshire

SIR – Cathy Newman envies her male colleagues who do not need to spend hours rifling through the wardrobe in search of suitable TV attire”. So why does she spend hours? Let her wear a smart suit with a white blouse and her killer heels. Problem solved.

Marjorie Ainley
Bath, Somerset

Heaven’s bacon

SIR – In his recent illuminating article on saffron, Paul Levy refers to “Portuguese saffron desserts… formerly confected exclusively by nuns, [which are] made extravagantly yellow by the incorporation of an unimaginably large number of egg yolks.”

Such desserts were, indeed, originally made in convents and monasteries, where large quantities of egg whites were used for the starching and pressing of the nuns’ and monks’ habits. The leftover egg yolks were then put to good use, resulting in a constellation of celestial desserts, ultra-sweet and sticky, which are found throughout the country to this day. Many of them carry names associated with monastic life, such as “heaven’s bacon”, “nun’s belly” and “angel’s chests”.

Richard Symington
London SW17

Rating bears and birds

SIR – The rating afforded Paddington by the British Board of Film Classification may help the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds when considering the fate of four-and-twenty blackbirds.

Robert Vincent
Wildhern, Hampshire

Litter pickings

SIR – Americans are not necessarily tidier than Britons (Letters, November 19).

Some states, Georgia in particular, employ prisoners to pick up litter from the roadside, sometimes under the supervision of an armed policeman.

Making prisoners useful would benefit society here in Britain.

M D Sparks
Shalford, Essex

35 sleeps till Christmas

SIR – Irena Milloy (Letters, November 17) is wrong in thinking Christmas bedding a new phenomenon.

My reindeer and snowflake patterned bedding is now over a decade old. It is used for no more than 28 days a year, after which it is banished to the cupboard. I expect it to outlast us all.

Dr Fiona Ramsay

SIR – My recollection of Christmas arriving early goes back to the Forties when our milkman was also the supplier of our Christmas chicken. To guarantee a chicken on our table on Christmas Day it had to be ordered by July.

Edmund Redfern
Blackburn, Lancashire

It’s all in the hours: how to save the eurozone

Olde Worlde business: Ernst Graner’s early 20th-century portrait of a Viennese grocer’s ( )

SIR – A recent weekend visit to Vienna on All Saint’s Day brought home to me very clearly why eurozone economies are failing to grow.

It was a national holiday, so I would guess that, during that weekend, the population of the city centre was swollen by perhaps 40-50 per cent: yet, barring an odd coffee shop and chocolatier, the entire city remained closed. Closer inspection of the opening hours of various retail premises revealed that many still close at half past five or six each evening, and have no late-night openings.

With this kind of approach to work it is small wonder that business is bad.

Jan de Walden
London SE1

How the English taught the French to be chic

SIR – My French exchange student lived in the same outfit for 10 days because it was the one rig-out she felt was fashionable. This was 1967 and she wore black needlecord jeans, a rose wool ribbed mini jumper and short leather ankle boots, even when we spent the sunny afternoons at the outdoor lido in Surbiton.

Later I took her to Carnaby Street and she spent all her holiday money on a citrus psychedelic dress – it was Swinging London after all, while the French were still rocking to Johnny Hallyday.

When I got to France we spent our afternoons in an attic “club”, where all the teenagers smoked Kent cigarettes and played moody Michel Polnareff records.

Jane O’Nions
Sevenoaks, Kent

SIR – I was saddened to see that safety rules are to preclude pupils’ foreign exchange visits.

Fifty years ago, aged 15, I travelled alone by train from Birmingham to Landshut to meet up with my German pen friend.

I learnt much from that visit, apart from the ability to better express myself in a foreign language. Most importantly I learnt that not all people were as materially fortunate as me. After my lengthy journey I asked to take a bath – never expecting that this would entail buckets of water being brought to the boil and poured into a tin bath.

It was a salutary lesson, and my pen friend and I remain in contact to this day.

Penelope Cornish
Bromsgrove, Worcestershire

Irish Times:

Sir, – A U-turn, a climbdown, a volte-face, a rowback, a 180, a flip-flop, a back-track, a watered-down version. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 16.

Sir, – U-bend or U-turn? – Yours, etc,


Beaumont, Dublin 9.

Sir, – Those surviving on a pittance will be charged the same amount for water as those with too much to count. The distribution of money upwards continues unabated. Governance in Ireland, under this Coalition, is now utterly inglorious. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – What is the logic behind charging an adult living alone €60 for water, while a cohabiting couple must pay €80 each? – Yours, etc,


Killiney, Co Dublin.

Sir, – The details of the revised water charges regime outlined in the Dáil yesterday are identical in almost every respect to the information leaked to the media in recent weeks.

As the Government had repeatedly assured us that the Cabinet exclusively was working on this package, it must be assumed that these leaks came from Cabinet members.

This is, of course, very worrying indeed and must be of grave concern to the Taoiseach, who I am sure will order an immediate inquiry – to be conducted by a retired High Court judge, of course. – Yours, etc,



Co Kildare.

Sir, – Watching the “debate” in the Dáil on the changes to water charges, I was struck by the bad manners of our so-called leaders. While the Minister was outlining the changes, Opposition TDs continually heckled him, and when the Opposition spokesman stood up to reply, most of the Government front bench walked out. How are we to have any respect for these people whose manners are worse than a bunch of rowdy schoolchildren? – Yours, etc,



A chara, – Minister for the Environement Kelly had already begun the predictable buck-passing. Asked if non-payers would be brought to court, he responded that this was a matter for Irish Water! I’m sure the same response will be forthcoming when charges are increased in due course. – Is mise,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – Anyone familiar with the unerring ability of Goverment TDs to issue retractions, contradictions and pure spin will probably wait another few weeks to see what else it is going to let fly out of their mouths, before deciding one way or the other.

Once people are signed up, 2019 will roll around quickly enough, the plebisicite will never happen and charges will quickly skyrocket before the whole thing is sold off to some private investor. It will then be too late for the Irish people to do anything about it.

Massive public protests get results and the anti-water charges campaign should keep up the pressure until at least a plebisicite is held and the future of Irish Water as a public utility is secured. – Yours, etc,



Co Cork.

Sir, – My stance in favour of water charges all along has been because of the conservation argument. Now that we know the details of the water charges payments, it seems the conservation argument has gone out the window. It seems that what my anti-water charges friends were telling me in heated debates was correct, it was just a tax under another name.

What’s the point in conserving water if there is a cap in place? It doesn’t matter how much water you use. We are now being told that the meters will help reduce bills if you use a small amount of water. In reality the reduction will be minuscule and will not be worth the effort. Granted the meters may find a few leaks but if you are effectively not being penalised for them, what’s the point in getting them fixed? – Yours, etc,


Salthill, Galway.

Sir, – The big problem is those who won’t pay and those who can’t pay. What is to be done about that? The Government’s answer is political, ambiguous and mealy-mouthed. People won’t be chased for the charge until a year and a month from the start date. The financial penalties seem rather low and will only count, apparently, when the residence is being sold. There is no mention of jail terms and confiscation of income or property. PPSs are not to be asked for and those which have been given are to dealt with by a protocol between Irish Water and the data commissioner.

The honest will wind up paying for the quango known as Irish Water. Those who don’t pay are going to get a lot more time with their money than the honest ones. Eventually, a detailed scheme will have to be designed for those who really can’t pay. This means income assessment, something Revenue and the Department of Social Protection seem reluctant to do. In the meantime, Irish Water will be racking up the costs, which will have to be paid in the future, almost certainly from government income or loans. So expect a big jump in water charges after 2019. – Yours, etc,


Coolock, Dublin 17.

A chara, – One water meter for sale. Like new. Any reasonable offer accepted. – Is mise,


Mount Merrion,

Co Dublin.

A chara, – If we give it a few more months, the Government will be paying us to use water. – Is mise,


Dublin 24.

Sir, – I was interested to read Stephen O’Byrnes’s piece “‘Peaceful protest’ over Irish Water is truly a charade” (Opinion & Analysis, November 19th). Given his former senior role in the now defunct Progressive Democrats, I particularly welcome his call “that the genesis of this ongoing campaign of unlawful behaviour is spelled out by Government, supported by all our politicians”.

Perhaps you would allow similar space and prominence to be given to an exploration of how certain policies, promoted by the PDs and implemented by governments of which that party was a member, contributed to the economic collapse of this country, with catastrophic results for so many, particularly the poor, excluded and marginalised? Might we start with the lack of regulation of the financial services sector, and its implementation of income tax cuts at a time of unprecedented economic growth, and its impact on revenue when the housing and property market collapsed? The list is long; however, I hope the above two items might be a useful start. – Yours, etc,


Baldoyle, Dublin 13.

Sir, – What a relief to read such a well-structured article from Stephen O’Byrnes. I agree wholeheartedly and it makes such a change from all the negative media comment we have been subjected to. The complete Irish Water situation has been handled so very badly and it is difficult to believe that the politicians in Government can ever recover from this debacle. Unfortunately, anarchy is rearing its head and I hope the authorities are ready. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 9.

Sir, – I wish to protest about the protests. Please can we have some new news! – Yours, etc,


Kilcoole, Co Wicklow.

Sir, – Stephen O’Byrnes writes, “It is also time that some broadcasters moved beyond their ping-pong presentation of these events, and stopped according a moral and political equivalence to both sides in this national confrontation”. Is he suggesting that The Irish Times should be condemned for publishing his article without warning readers that he is a neo-liberal long associated with the redundant Progressive Democrats? – Yours, etc,


Dublin 8.

Sir, – Do you have to afford lobbyists such as Stephen O’ Byrne the opportunity to serve up such drivel in your opinion columns? – Yours, etc,


Inchicore, Dublin 8.

Sir, –The opinion piece condemning the “anarchy” of the water protesters by Stephen O’Byrnes describes him as a communications and political consultant. Many people may not be aware that the same Mr O’Byrne and his colleagues in the late and unlamented Progressive Democrats bear a huge responsibility for the economic policies that led to the bankruptcy of this State. The rejection by the people of further impositions to pay for the result of such policies is entirely predictable and justified, while the actions of a few are not. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – I would urge the protesters to heed one of their own slogans, “Enough is enough”. You have made your point; now let it rest, please. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

A chara, – In his article on political stability and governability in Ireland (“Losing its grip: why the Irish political system can no longer guarantee stability”, Opinion & Analysis, November 11th), Fintan O’Toole suggests that mass emigration was the price paid for the prioritisation of political stability in post-independence Ireland.

I would argue that political stability was a consequence rather than a cause of mass emigration (which was long-established before the achievement of independence in 1922).

In 1992 the National Economic and Social Council (NESC) published a report by the Norwegian social scientist, Lars Mjøset, which sought to explain why Ireland’s level of economic development lagged behind that achieved by other small west European economies (Denmark, Austria, Sweden, Switzerland and Finland). Mjoset’s main conclusion was that the latter countries, unlike Ireland, had developed strong export-oriented industrial sectors that were primarily owned by indigenous firms and around which were built robust national systems of innovation which drove processes of continuous renewal and expansion.

Ireland, Mjøset argued, did not possess a comparable national system of innovation, and a key reason for this was the impact of continued mass emigration since the mid-19th century. The selective nature of emigration meant those moving abroad were, for the most part, young, energetic, ambitious, and innovative. In essence, those with get-up-and-go got up and went. This was the classic safety valve that systematically removed those who would otherwise have been sources of social disruption and change.

As a result, Ireland was left in the unchallenged control of highly conservative, agrarian-based, social and economic elements profoundly inimical to change. Rather than challenge these entrenched interests, and faced with very limited employment prospects, potential dissidents who might otherwise have sparked innovation and change simply emigrated. One consequence was the phenomenon of political stagnation (as much as stability) described by Mr O’Toole.

It remains to be seen to what extent the current wave of social unrest, in conjunction with the implosion of the Catholic Church, the marginalisation of agriculture and widespread alienation from the established political parties signals a secular transition to a new era of political instability. – Is mise,



Department of Geography,

Maynooth University.

Sir, – The recent death of a two-year-old girl in a road incident in Waterford was tragic (“Fire service criticises ‘ghoulish’ crash photos”, Front Page, November 20th). I cannot begin to imagine the grief that her family is going through. It is deplorable that members of the public that happened upon the scene began capturing videos and photo images of the incident with their phones. Why anyone would stoop to this morbid behaviour is beyond my comprehension. Yet it has has become so widespread that Waterford Fire Services has appealed to the public to let it get on with its work and to show respect and dignity to those involved in accidents. Curiosity is normal; capturing images of dying, injured and distraught victims is not. – Yours, etc,


Dunleer, Co Louth.

Sir, – I commend Kathy Sheridan for her clear-headed analysis of the inherently harmful nature of prostitution (“Telling the grim truth about prostitution”, Opinion & Analysis, November 19th). As an organisation that has supported over 2,500 women whose lives have been blighted by their involvement in the sex trade, we can confirm that they did not experience prostitution as “a job like any other”, but rather an existence characterised overwhelmingly by objectification, exploitation and violence meted out by those who bought them and those who profited from their sale.

As we move towards long-awaited legal reform on this issue in Ireland, Ms Sheridan is right to suggest it is time to face the truth of what prostitution really involves and stop pandering to the view of it as a harmless or even glamorous “profession”. This is a view peddled by a privileged minority and only serves to line the pockets of pimps and traffickers, and prop up the belief that men have the right to buy women and girls – usually the most marginalised and vulnerable women and girls. If we are truly interested in achieving gender equality in Ireland then tackling the oppression of prostitution has to be an absolute priority. – Yours, etc,


Chief Executive,


All Hallows College,

Drumcondra, Dublin 9.

Sir, – Last Friday I travelled to the “3 Theatre” (formerly the 02) in Dublin to attend the Andrea Bocelli concert. The concert was late starting (which is apparently the norm in Ireland now), latecomers were admitted in their droves without even an apology up to the interval, and the prohibition of recording and filming was not enforced. Am I the only person who gets upset when there is constant chatter from behind in the middle of an aria or orchestral piece? Am I expecting too much not to have to sit next to or behind someone constantly using their iPad or iPhone to take numerous photographs from every angle during every song? Am I asking too much of the promoters of these concerts to enforce their own rules and to leave the latecomers outside? There were so many photographs being taken last Friday the scene was reminsicent of the intermittent flashing of Christmas tree lights. Yet nothing was said other than a general announcement at the beginning of the evening, when many of the latecomers were not even present.

What was worse, people were emailing photographs to their friends and then answering the emails, after having an audible discussion, of course. What is it about Irish society that we can no longer arrive on time, sit, listen and enjoy? Intervals were made for chatting.

The ticket (excluding charges) cost €166 and was paid for in April. This was a most expensive trip; I won’t be spending my hard-earned cash in that theatre again. We as a civilised society lost a lot in the Celtic Tiger, and not all of it money.

Thank heavens for the Gate and the National Concert Hall, where standards are still maintained. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – Alison Hackett (November 18th) argues that if teachers wish to retain professional status as educators they should assess their students’ work. She cites other professions such as the law and architecture. Would she agree to a system whereby a lawyer would defend a client and then act as judge and jury? Or where an architect would both submit a planning application and then decide whether or not to give permission for construction? Teachers are not only there to assess; they are advocates, supporting students throughout their time at secondary school – encouraging, cajoling, inspiring. The student-teacher relationship is a delicate one that may be ruined by forcing teachers to become the judges of their students. – Yours, etc,


Naas, Co Kildare.

Sir, – Fintan O’Toole should realise that even little ideas can have big consequences (“What’s the big idea? It’s time for the State to consider a real democracy”, Opinion & Analysis, November 18th). Why not include the banning of smoking in pubs and the charging for plastic bags as big ideas? From little saplings do great oaks grow. – Yours, etc,


Donnybrook, Dublin 4.

Irish Independent:

So all is settled. We have “certainty, simplicity and affordability”. The charging rates have been lowered and set in stone for four years. Irish Water will only be privatised if the people agree in a plebiscite. The Government backbenchers, we hear, are quietly satisfied that the worst is over and that the Government has regained the initiative. Case closed. Panic over.

But is it? The big problem is those who won’t pay and those who can’t pay. What is to be done about it? The Government’s answer is political – ambiguous and mealy-mouthed. People won’t be chased for the charge until a year and a month from the start date. The financial penalties seem rather low and will only count, apparently, when the residence is being sold. There is no mention of jail terms and confiscation of income or property. PPSs are not to be asked for and those which have been given are to be dealt with by protocol between Irish Water and the Data Commissioner.

As usual the Government has chickened out. The honest will wind up paying for the quango known as Irish Water. Those who don’t pay are going to get a lot more time with their money than the honest ones. Eventually, a detailed scheme will have to be designed for those who really can’t pay. This means income assessment – something Revenue and Social Welfare seem reluctant to do.

In the meantime, Irish Water will be racking up costs which will have to be paid in the future – almost certainly from Government income or loans.

So expect a big jump in water charges post-2019. Hopefully, the country won’t be washed up by then. This Government are unlikely to be in power then (not to worry – the pensions are terrific).

Maybe Sinn Fein will be power. It should be interesting to see their policy on Irish Water. There’s one positive note about Sinn Fein in government – enforcement of government policy shouldn’t be a problem.

Liam Cooke

Coolock, Dublin 17

Water charges

When George Bush Senior was president of the US he said that future wars would be about water. Once again, Ireland is to the fore as we set out to do the right thing by starting our own watered-down version in the run-up to the 2016 celebrations.

This is what was really said outside the GPO that day in 1916 (as it all becomes clearer now that we see history repeat itself).

“In the name of Water and the dead generations, etc, etc.” We can now confidently replace Padraig Pearse’s “blood sacrifice” with “water retention”, because he obviously was saying this.

You can take our freedom, but you’ll never take our rivers, which always run free. Oh, they’ve taken them as well?

Robert Sullivan

Bantry, Co Cork

It’s not just any panto… it’s the Irish Water panto.

Tom Gilsenan

Beaumont D9

Almost everyone knows that when you are in a hole you stop digging. However, after half a million water holes, the Government are still at it.

Seamus McLoughlin

Keshcarrigan, Co Leitrim

‘Disgraceful’ scenes in Ireland

Dear God! Am I supposed to be concerned that Joan Burton has been hit by a balloon? Enda Kenny says this is “disgraceful”. Really?

Taoiseach, for your education, this is what “disgraceful” looks like:

It’s the two men I know in their 40s in our capital who killed themselves because their businesses failed in the crash, which was caused by Irish politicians.

It’s doing absolutely nothing, when you’re the leader of the opposition, to hold an inept government to account – even though that’s your absolute duty in a democracy.

It’s failing to pressurise government during the boom years to invest in hospitals, schools and 100-year-old leaky water pipes.

It’s throwing away €80m of our money to set up Irish Water.

It’s the death of my father this year from complications having developed a lung clot after lying on a hospital trolley. (He was in A&E simply to get three stitches in his head after a fall and wanted to go home during all of the first 24 hours. Then he deteriorated, had to go to a ward and then cost the taxpayer a bomb in useless rehabilitation costs for three months, before he eventually died in a room with eight other patients watching him). My father had paid twice over for his medical care (both public and private).

This is a definition of “disgraceful”.

Dr Maeve White

Rathfarnham, Dublin 14

Don’t let Benjy bull leave alone

I note in your pages the exploits of Benjy the Co Mayo gay bull (November 18).

So far, £9,000 (€11,242) has already been pledged to rehome the lucky bull.

A young adult Charlois would weigh about 800kg, at current (well-publicised) low pricing levels (€3.67/kg) this would amount to under €3,000. Considering the amount raised, perhaps there would be enough left over for him to bring a friend?

Richard E Joyce

Monkstown, Co Dublin

Backing continuous assessment

The second-level teacher unions are committed to resisting the compromised proposals for junior-cycle reforms as outlined by the Minister for Education and Skills. Regrettably, they have announced two days of strike.

In a joint statement the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland and the Teachers’ Union of Ireland continue to raise concerns about the potential impact of 40pc school-based continuous assessment on “educational standards”. They also strongly claim to be taking a stand on behalf of their students and what is best for them.

However, both the National Parents Council Post-Primary (NPCpp) and the Irish Second-level Students’ Union (ISSU) have come out in support of the minister’s proposed reforms, including a level of school-based assessment.

In their own joint statement both parent and student bodies have respectfully asked teachers to return to talks, stating that the minister’s proposed package of reforms is “good for students, good for parents and good for education”.

Therefore, these proposed strikes do not have the support of many parents and students. More importantly, many of the concerns raised by the unions are not supported by research.

Both teachers and union representatives are well aware that research has repeatedly and consistently demonstrated that constructive and formative feedback is essential for promoting learning.

Students need to know what they are doing well, where they are required to improve and how they can improve.

A summative exam at the end of a three-year cycle does not give teachers the opportunity to provide such feedback. On the other hand, the proposed 40pc school-based continuous assessment over years two and three provides teachers with the opportunity to assess their students and help them identify areas where they can learn and develop their skills, as well as hopefully improving students’ overall grade outcome.

Teachers are best placed to provide students with individualised formative feedback that can help them reach their full potential.

Dr Raymond Lynch

Department of Education

University of Limerick

Irish Independent


November 20, 2014

20 November 2014 Recovery

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left toe I am stricken with gout. But I manage to get to do the housework and Fluff seems to be quietly recovering.

Mary’s back much better today, breakfast weight down gammon for tea and her back pain is still there but decreasing.


Alan Smith – obituary

Alan Smith was a long-serving Tory stalwart who organised the ill-fated 1984 Conservative Party Conference in Brighton

Alan Smith


5:53PM GMT 19 Nov 2014


Alan Smith, who has died aged 93, was for nine years secretary of the Conservative National Union, the grassroots wing of the Party; his most public responsibility was organising party conferences – his last being the bomb-ravaged Brighton conference of 1984.

Smith died two days after the 30th anniversary of the bombing, several Tory activists having called to thank him again for the help he gave them in its wake.

The device on the sixth floor of the Grand Hotel exploded at 2.54 am on October 12, the final day of the conference. Collapsing the front of the building, it left five dead and many more injured; Margaret Thatcher had a narrow escape.

From their first-floor room Smith and his wife made for the fire exit with dozens of other senior Tories. As a former Army officer he could not help thinking that “had there been an IRA gunman following up the explosion, he would have had a field day”.

The conference was due to resume in six hours, but there was no talk of cancellation, Smith agreeing with Mrs Thatcher that it must be business as usual.

He was allowed back into the building to retrieve the conference files, plus his watch and ring left on the dressing table. Guests’ other belongings were retrieved several days later .

The party treasurer Sir Alistair McAlpine, Smith noted, “called in some business favours and got M&S opened for fresh clothing and hot drinks. Conference opened on time, and continued amid whispered enquiries about the Tebbits and John Wakeham.” Norman Tebbit, trapped beneath the rubble, was seriously injured and his wife Margaret left paralysed; Wakeham sustained serious injuries, but his wife was among the dead.

“If the applause was a little more fervent and prolonged than usual,” Smith wrote, “it was a reflection of the pride representatives felt in their party, which could shrug off this disaster and get on with the job.”

He had always planned to retire at the end of 1984, “but to finish my political career in such sadness over the death and injury of so many people I had worked with was a traumatic ending I had never expected.”

John Alan Smith was born in Cambridge on February 16 1921. From Cambridgeshire High School for Boys he joined the Cambridgeshire Regiment TA as war broke out. Becoming a colour sergeant in the Sherwood Foresters, he was commissioned into the Suffolk Regiment in 1942, then fought with 1st Bn Royal Irish Fusiliers in North Africa and Sicily. He later became a staff captain in GHQ 2nd Echelon and GSO 2 Intelligence Organisation, AFHQ Italy.

Demobilised as a major in 1946, he was appointed Conservative agent for South-West Norfolk , and later for Huntingdon. In 1968 he moved to London as deputy Central Office agent for the South East.

In 1975 Smith was appointed secretary of the National Union. His tasks included organising the party’s October conference, which then alternated between Brighton and Blackpool – though even before the bombing Smith had arranged for the 1986 event to be held in Bournemouth.

Organising the conference was a fine art. “Fitting ministers, party officers, executive committee members and staff into the 250 bedrooms we reserved was a continual problem for me,” Smith recalled. On the conference agenda, Smith was caught between the National Union, who wanted motions with bite, and the leadership which was set on blandness. Observing one of Smith’s conferences, a Soviet diplomat remarked: “This is just how we do things in the Kremlin. We don’t organise a conference so the delegates can tell us what to do.”

Under Smith’s auspices the party started charging constituency representatives to attend the conference, introduced commercial displays as a money-raiser, and deployed a mechanically operated speaker’s rostrum christened the “Maggie rose”. During these years the conference “fringe” expanded rapidly.

He was appointed OBE in 1984.

Alan Smith married Pamela Hoskin in 1945; she died earlier this year. Their son and two daughters survive him.

Alan Smith, born February 16 1921, died October 13 2014


derek robinson Derek Robinson was an external adviser to South Africa’s presidential labour market commission. Photograph: Magdalen College, Oxford

Derek Robinson was proud of having been the first economic adviser to an employment minister, Barbara Castle, whom he idolised. At the dinner to mark Derek’s retirement from Magdalen College, Oxford, a seat was left vacant next to him. As the meal started, in walked the frail lady; the college had arranged for her to be chauffeured there.

In the 1990s, Derek was an external adviser to South Africa’s presidential labour market commission, of which I was the research director. In our report to the cabinet and then to Nelson Mandela, we advised that unless there was a strong redistributive strategy from the outset, growth would be sluggish, inequality would grow and labour absorption would be negligible. On the day we presented our findings, the minister of finance, guided by the IMF and the World Bank, proposed structural or supply-side initiatives, and our recommendations were not taken up. Inequality and mass unemployment grew, prompting more social tensions and violence. Derek shared our anger.

George Healy writes: Before the 1992 general election, Derek Robinson set up a meeting involving John Smith, the Labour leader, and Tony Blair, the shadow employment minister. A serious disagreement between Blair and Derek about the role of trade unions may well account for Derek never having been called on to advise the Blair administration.

Your piece (Why do we only worship ‘real’ works of art?, 14 November) refers briefly to Walter Benjamin’s analysis of infinitely reproducible art but doesn’t mention his worry that modern mass reproduction could eventually erode the historical authority of an artwork, jeopardising its traditional testimony as part of a time-tested canon. Indeed, he feared a wider decline of the value of human experience, as once passed between generations through careful storytelling. With today’s instant internet access to countless images and information, a serious debate over a related loss of historical memory and understanding is now growing at last. Great art is not immune to this erosion. It forms a key part of our social memory.
John Chowcat
Wakefield, West Yorkshire

• The piles of glossy art books on sale show that many people enjoy looking at good-quality reproductions of their favourite pictures, even though they would not find it acceptable for the same reproductions to be framed and hung in an art gallery for an exhibition. Many would, however, be happy to hang a good quality reproduction on their walls at home. This surely relates to how we value objects and what we think is worthy of our attention. The bottom line is that we place a much higher value on things that are rare or unique, provided they speak to us in some significant way.
John Gaunt
Lewes, East Sussex

• We shouldn’t be dismissive of reproductions of great works of art, which might make them more accessible to the public and are art in their own right. What we should dismiss are cheap imitations of iconic designs. The government is yet to implement legislation it passed 18 months ago and so it is legal to replicate iconic designs for the likes of furniture. These replicas are often made overseas but their manufacturers use the UK as a shop floor, conning consumers and devaluing the work of talented designers. A great replica of Michelangelo’s David has its own artistic merit. But there are many examples of duplications that are not art. They are only poor-quality forgeries. There should be a stigma attached to them.
Tony Ash
Managing director, Vitra

• I feel the capacity of even the most up-to-date techniques to reproduce original pieces has been exaggerated. I have a screen print by the late Terry Frost on my wall which uses 11 different colours very carefully selected and prepared by the artist. I also have a reproduction of the same work in the complete catalogue of his prints. Even with high-quality scanning and printing processes, the colours in the book are nowhere near the original and lack the brio so characteristic of his work.

Producing a run of 150 prints of an 11 screenprint image is not like pushing the print command and setting a laser printer going. All colour reproductions are reproduced by electronic processes that are essentially a compromise. Any other artistic medium could generate similar caveats.
Murray Marshall
West Grimstead, Wiltshire

• If virtually identical replicas of works of art can now be made, this points to a way of resolving the dispute over the Parthenon marbles: commission the best reproductions money can buy, install them in the British Museum, and send the originals back to Greece. It could be done the other way round; but it seems entirely understandable that the Greeks should want to restore the marbles’ links with a particular historic place and national history. The British Museum, on the other hand, could discharge its wider cultural mission just as well with replicas, as the V&A’s cast display (of objects left where they belong) so well demonstrates.
Hugh Corner
Twickenham, Middlesex

• I once heard Umberto Eco speaking on forgeries. It was about the time that psychiatrist Graziella Magherini was describing Stendhal syndrome. Eco described his own severe bout of it: “I was in a sort of ecstasy, from the idea of being in Florence.” Stendhal syndrome is hyperkulturemia, manifest in the forms of rapid heartbeat, dizziness, swooning, confusion and even hallucinations when face-to-face with great works of art. Magherini was even providing treatment for it at the Santa Maria Nuova hospital. Given that there are several versions of Michelangelo’s David in Florence: most notably the original in the Accademia and the 20th-century copy outside the Palazzo Vecchio, I asked Eco which was responsible for the greatest number of swoons. His response: “It’s about the same.” So there is a definitive answer to Polly Toynbee’s question.
Professor Emeritus Geoffrey Broadbent
Southsea, Hampshire

• If we removed everything that was not painting from the galleries and museums around the world, there would be a lot of empty space. Photography is the art of the 20th century and the fact that the Tate now has a curator of photography, even though it took until the 21st to get one, proves it, to me at least. There is bad art everywhere. But well-made vintage prints by Ansel Adams, Edward Weston or Irving Penn as well as being wonderful inspiring images are also objects of great beauty.
Neil Burgess

• An even better idea is to fill the London museums and galleries with reproductions, distribute the originals throughout the UK and let the “fetishistic” Londoner visit Inverness to see those original Rembrandts for a change.
John Warburton

Soccer - Sheffield United Filer The Jessica Ennis stand at Bramall Lane, Sheffield. Jessica Ennis-Hill wants her name to be removed from the stand if the club choose to re-sign Ched Evans. Photograph: Anna Gowthorpe/PA

I joined the protest outside the town hall against Ched Evans being reinstated at Sheffield United Football Club on Saturday. Since the protest hit the news, I have seen comments from the public that I have found to be truly infuriating. From “bunch of rug munchers” to “I bet none of them know the offside rule”, the comments have ranged in both wit and distance from the truth. Many people have asked why we hadn’t protested outside the club’s ground. The abuse that Jessica Ennis-Hill has received since taking her stance on the issue is evidence enough of verbal abuse and worse that would have occurred if we had protested outside the club’s ground (Ennis-Hill sent rape tweets in footballer row, 15 November). Sheffield United have since announced that any fan found abusing protesters will be banned from the club for life. While not the exact outcome I was hoping for, it demonstrates that SUFC have, in fact, heard us. I’d like to set the record straight about why exactly I protested. For me, the protest was not about further condemning a potentially innocent man. The fact is that, rightly or wrongly, Ched Evans is a convicted rapist and until such time as this verdict is overturned, I believe that he should not be allowed to play for the club. I did not protest to invite argument about his conviction, but rather to demonstrate my opinion that convicted rapists should not be allowed to continue in a public and influential role.
Stacey Mottershaw

• The key fact is that Evans is unrepentant. If he was to admit and turn away from his wrongdoing, allowing him to return would send a very different message, to “lads” in particular. It would also underline that true rehabilitation of offenders requires remorse and repentance as otherwise the punishment has not served it’s underlying purpose; it could be argued that the offender has not really paid the full price for their crime and so forfeits their entitlement to rebuild their life without restriction.
David Wyatt

• A football club has stated it will bar for life any Twitter troll threatening rape. The same club invites for training a convicted rapist who maintains he is guilty of nothing more than “infidelity”.
Angela Barton
Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire

• Even if some of Amnesty’s recommendations are belatedly implemented (Report, 12 November), the World Cup in Qatar will still be played over the blood of the hundreds of migrant workers who have died, having been forced to work in appalling conditions. In contrast to the outrage over Ched Evans, I am not aware of patrons, sponsors, players, and management of the British football teams protesting strongly at this human rights abuse and suggesting that the tournament be held elsewhere. If such a demand was made it might restore my belief in the morality of the football industry. I have yet to be convinced.
Barbara Starkey
St Albans, Hertfordshire

Russell Brand At Protest To Save Social Housing Russell Brand at a protest to save social housing on the New Era estate in east London, which was bought this year by the US-based company Westbrook Partners. Photograph: Jules Annan/Barcroft Media/Jules Annan / Barcroft Media

The New Era housing estate is owned in New York; army recruitment is run by Capita (Reports, 18 November). I seem to remember that the army’s theatre equipment servicing is being sold off. I can’t keep track of how much public provision is now delivered by A4E, G4S, Serco etc, and the various shadowy outfits running probation or schools, or receiving lucrative NHS contracts. What I’d like for Christmas is a Guardian booklet identifying everything that used to be a public service or utility, or social housing or care home, that is now a nice little earner for some private company – along with an assessment of how much public money goes into these “providers”, how well they function, how much they donate to the political parties, which MPs or ministers are sponsored by them, or sit on their boards, or are married to their CEOs, and by how much we subsidise their low-paid employees. We need to know who owns Britain, who sold it, and how much it is costing us.
Richard Gravil
Penrith, Cumbria


The efforts of the NHS to improve patient safety through greater candour have been hit by the reluctance of trainee doctors to report failings because their anonymity can’t be guaranteed (“Trainee doctors ‘too scared to blow the whistle’”, 19 November).

There are also thousands of NHS professionals without an effective means to report concerns. And this further undermines the NHS’s efforts to improve patient safety.

It’s a travesty that thousands of specialist NHS professionals remain unregulated despite performing procedures and tests on patients that could cause harm.

All staff are able and should raise any concerns they have. But if regulated professionals with a duty to report mistakes and concerns are afraid of speaking out, where does that leave unregulated practitioners or those on voluntary registers to whom the NHS’s duty of candour does not apply?

Amanda Casey
Chair, Registration Council for Clinical Physiologists
Lichfield, Staffordshire

Steve Richards’ excellent article on the problems at the Colchester hospital fails to mention the responsibility carried by the North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group, set up under the Government’s NHS reforms to commission care for its local population and alongside that given the responsibility to monitor the multimillion-pound contracts placed with  its local hospital. If, under government reforms, an NHS commissioning body cannot monitor what it buys from an NHS hospital, what chance do we have when these clinical commissioning groups are placing contracts with an increasing number of private-sector providers?

Peter Boileau


Shame on those who side with terror

Four rabbis and a policeman are murdered in a place of prayer in Jerusalem using knives, guns and hatchets and some members of our political class are unable to condemn this terror attack without reservation.

If murdering innocent civilians was not enough, there were then celebrations by Palestinians giving out sweets and calling for more killings.

The Liberal Democrat MP David Ward tweets that the attack is a result of Palestinians “driven to madness by the failure of the international community to deal with Israel”. On the same day, Baroness Warsi also equated Israelis wanting to pray at a holy site, the Temple Mount, to terrorists killing people in a synagogue.

Such distortions only give succour to those whose aim is not only the destruction of Israel but the wider goal of the spread of fanatical Islamic fundamentalism throughout the world.

The Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps rightly tweeted that Baroness Warsi was speaking for herself and not the Tory Party. Nick Clegg also needs to distance himself from David Ward. Both of them should lose the backing of their respective parties.

To be seen on the side  of terror is not acceptable for any mainstream  British politician and is completely irresponsible.

Paul Corrick

On Tuesday, BBC News gave extended coverage to the murder of four Israelis in Jerusalem at the hands of Palestinians. When would the killing of four Palestinians by Israelis last have been considered worthy of such coverage?

On Wednesday, they reported, with little commentary, that the Israeli Prime Minister had ordered the demolition of the homes of the murderers, where their families still live. If any Palestinian leader had ordered any such thing the international outcry would have been deafening.

Why is this institutional imbalance so entrenched?

Kenneth Wilson
Renwick, Cumbria


Lack of dining car is food for thought

Simon Calder’s views on Eurostar are extraordinary (“Why I am a Eurostar sceptic”, 12 November). I cannot imagine going back to the hassle of air travel to Paris after the convenience of Eurostar. Nor does he seem interested in the green debate about whether we should still be flying polluting planes when  we have high-speed  clean-energy trains.

This ought to be one of the main justifications for a more extensive network of high-speed trains within the UK instead of all this stupid negative debate about HS2.

As ever, the Brits think that they know better than our often more successful Continental friends.

My only objection to Eurostar, and one hopefully that Deutsche Bahn may resolve if and when it  starts running from  St Pancras, is the lack of  a proper dining car.

Eurostar offers standard passengers croissants and pot noodles in a miserable snack bar; and first-class passengers get not much more appetising airline-style packaged meals.

Right from the start this seemed odd, especially when the French pride themselves on their cuisine, and Britain had a worthy tradition of dining-car service on  long-distance trains.

It used to be one of the great joys of longer journeys to be served good-quality meals while whizzing through the countryside. I do not believe the demand no longer exists.

National Express axed the much-loved London to Norwich dining car before losing the franchise, and Abellio has shown no interest in reviving it. There used to be a nightly stampede at Liverpool Street to the dining car because there were always fewer places than the number of would-be diners.

In an age when companies are falling over themselves to provide luxury goods and services, why are no enterprising rail companies trying to  reinvent the dining car?

Gavin Turner
Gunton, Norfolk

Comparing Saudi with Isis is unhelpful

Saudi Arabia’s beheading of those it condemns as criminals may be barbaric (Brian Parkinson, Letters, 18 November). However, the barbarism of Isis is of a completely different order, including “ethnic cleansing” on a large scale; cruel religious persecution; the massacre of prisoners of war; and (without respect of age or sex) of the members of  a tribe that resisted  its tyranny.

Most international opinion has understandably condemned the gruesome murders of Western hostages, some of whom had undertaken humanitarian work in Syria, and one of whom, Alan Henning, had been found innocent of any crime by an Islamic court before his murder.

We may judge Saudi Arabia’s reliance on capital punishment abhorrent, but to compare its actions with those of Isis is unhelpful.

Western media have certainly “in general” said little about Saudi executions compared with their coverage of Isis’s atrocities, but they have certainly not been silent on the subject.

Ralph Houlbrooke

Unlike Brian Parkinson, I am very much in favour of capital punishment and find that I can quite easily spot the difference between the illegal killing of innocent hostages and the legal killing of convicted criminals.

Saudi Arabia, it is true, brings the death penalty into disrepute (by including victimless crimes among its capital offences) but then the Saudi regime simultaneously manages to bring prisons, courts, Islam, politics, education and money into disrepute. I hear no one using moral equivalence to attack any of those.

Keith Gilmour

TTIP would stop us taking back railways

Contrary to Alan Gent’s letter (19 November), many of us are immensely concerned that, alongside the wholesale destruction of the NHS, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership will contain legislation that will prevent privatised companies from ever being renationalised.

Given that every poll I’ve ever seen has suggested that an overwhelming proportion of the UK voting public believes that the railways should be renationalised, and I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t think that the water companies would be better in our hands, it seems astonishing that the Labour Party isn’t shouting their opposition from the rooftops.

Except they aren’t in opposition. If they wonder why those of us who used to support them no longer do, they might look at that.

Manda Scott
Clungunford, Shropshire

PR gets my vote to improve democracy

The best way for politicians to get people to vote (“Make polling days Bank Holidays so more people vote, say MPs”, 14 November) is the way they least like.

In the Scottish referendum the turnout was around 80 per cent because everyone knew they had a voice. I first voted 63 years ago and my vote has never counted. I have always lived in a constituency in which one party had clear dominance.

Proportional representation is the only way to give every person a voice. I look forward (with regret) to my vote not counting next May.

John Laird
Darley, North Yorkshire

Will Cupid’s dart hit the bullseye?

I hope that the search is now on for another gay bull to be Benjy’s civil partner.

Peter Forster
London N4


Sir, Matt Ridley’s piece (“Hurrah for the little-changing face of Britain”, Nov 17) highlights the political traditions that separate Britain and Europe. The history of modern Europe has been obsessed with rationalism, a belief that an ideology dreamt up by political philosophers can be transposed word for word into reality by the implementation of projects from the top down.

Britain, however, has followed a pragmatic and traditionalist approach: change has been adapted and the institutions around us have evolved in order for the status quo to be preserved. This is best illustrated by Professor Michael Oakeshott’s analogy of the ship sailing though the sea “neither starting-place nor appointed destination . . .” and where “the enterprise is to keep afloat on an even keel”.

These two distinct traditions will be majorly important in the debate over our continued membership in what is known on the continent as the “European project”.
James A Paton
Billericay, Essex

Sir, I noted with pleasure Matt Ridley’s ironic nod to Britain’s traditional suspicion of European super-sovereigns. As he points out, Defoe — if he were to time-travel into 21st century Britain — would be “appalled at the degree to which we are subjects of an alien and unelected European nomenklatura”. As I’m sure he is aware, Defoe’s surprise would be all the more given that the monarch of his day was none other than the sturdily Germanic child of the Holy Roman Empire, Georg Ludwig of Hanover, who acceded to the throne following a series of backroom deals by cosmopolitan proto-Eurocrats only ten years earlier.
Tom Gardner
London SW13

Sir, Matt Ridley tells us that there have been no battles in this country since 1714 except Culloden and the Blitz. Once, every grammar schoolboy would have written notes on the 1745 rising and possibly have read Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley, and be familiar with Prestonpans: a real battle with infantry, cavalry and artillery deployed, and significant casualties.
Graham Read

Sir, One thing that Defoe would find little changed is class hierarchy, with people oddly proud to call themselves working or middle class (the upper classes don’t trumpet their status). Until we rid ourselves of these terminologies to insult those seemingly in differing strata, we will not advance, the “us and them” society being perpetuated. Countless obituaries remind us of many people’s accomplishments, their backgrounds not hindering them from achieving remarkable goals. Wallowing in class warfare was not something Defoe did. But then, he did have at least 198 pen names.
Carol Godsmark

Sir, Matt Ridley’s suggestion that very little has substantially changed in Britain since the time of Defoe is nonsense. Britain’s population has increased ten-fold; its urbanised proportion has changed from 20 per cent to 80 per cent; the slave trade has been abolished and child labour outlawed; and capital and corporal punishment no longer exist. We have the NHS, a welfare system, universal suffrage and a multicultural society, with all their imperfections, and we are unrecognisably tolerant compared with the time of Defoe.
Bernard Kingston
Biddenden, Kent

Sir, Defoe would find a very familiar country. Jonathan Swift I’m sure would feel the same especially about the shenanigans of the present-day financial industry. One only has to read his poem Upon the South Sea Project, describing the disgraceful conduct of financial brokers over the South Sea Bubble, to realise that “plus ça change” applies.
Pete Shea
Old Windsor, Berks

Sir, Matt Ridley reveals perhaps more than he intends when he, a Northumbrian viscount, suggests that Defoe would find “working women” mind-boggling. The economy of 1724 relied just as much on the work of women as does today’s, although, of course, viscountesses might not have been quite so busy.
Nick Ratcliffe

Sir, Surely the pronunciation of “Mx” is “Mex” (report, Nov 17, and letter, Nov 19). It neatly covers ex-Mr, ex-Mrs, ex-Miss and ex-Ms.
Ivan K Rowland
London SE23

Sir, In the circumstances, “Mix” seems entirely appropriate.
June Brough
Halesowen, W Midlands

Sir, Mux.
John Dowie
Tunbridge Wells, Kent

Sir, I covered the origin of the tuxedo in my book, Wedding Bells and Chimney Sweeps (letter, Nov 14). Griswold Lorillard, who introduced the jacket to the New York elite, lived on land acquired from the Algonquin Indians that they called P’tauk-seet-dough, meaning “home of the bear”. Phonetically this is “tuxedo”.
Bruce Montague
Hove, E Sussex

Sir, After the G20 summit it should be clear that the Russian takeover of the Crimea is a fait accompli, but that the Russian position in the Ukraine is not, and must not be allowed to be. Crimea, historically part of Russia, could be restored to Russia as part of a bargain with Moscow. The Russians should then remove themselves from all activities in Ukraine. The present crisis is one where “do nothing” is not an option, the history of Georgia proves that.
Richard Hill

Sir, Putin’s propaganda is much more effective than that of the Soviets Union. This is a media war, and we should be pumping money into the BBC Russian Service.
Richard Davy

Sir, While it may be true that authors benefitfrom the wisdom of a “ruthless reviser”, this was not the case with the original The Duke’s Children by Anthony Trollope (News, Nov 17). Being the last of the Palliser novels, Trollope seems to have intended this work to be a fitting conclusion for the series in the same way that The Last Chronicle of Barset brought together the threads of the Barchester novels. He wrote it as a four-volume novel and it was with disappointment that he learnt that the publisher was only prepared to risk three volumes. There was no editor on hand and Trollope had to tackle the disagreeable task himself. Words, sentences and paragraphs had to be removed. It is, therefore, greatly to his credit that the result should have been so well regarded.

The traditional The Duke’s Childrenis undoubtedly a fine book. However, the extended version, painstakingly re-created by Professor Steven Amarnick and his colleagues, is a revelation that strengthens characterisations and helps us to understand Trollope’s intentions.

As we approach next year’s bicentenary of his birth, I am sure that all Trollope enthusiasts will be looking forward to enjoying this “Lost Chronicle of Omnium”!
Michael G Williamson
Chairman, the Trollope Society


CQC rankings can’t be relied upon; prosecuting British jihadists; Britain’s economic prospects; and one very confused gardener

Patients in England can now compare the quality of GP surgeries

7:00AM GMT 19 Nov 2014


SIR – I would urge the public to be wary of the Care Quality Commission’s assessment of GP practices.

General practice is a vocational art – it is family medicine and should be practised by kind, experienced doctors. The care provided cannot be quantified and is difficult to assess objectively. Does it really matter if rigid protocols are not in place, notices not laminated, or that there are employees – often staff with years of experience, well known in the community and employed by word of mouth – who do not have formal references?

There is something wrong with a world where doctors are chosen by looking online as one might search for a computer or washing machine.

I would think that practices falling short of the CQC’s requisite standards may in fact be better practices where, in these days of increasing pressure, the staff care more about patients than paperwork.

Dr Kate Mash
Salisbury, Wiltshire

SIR – Having read your article regarding the rating of GPs, I decided to look up my own surgery on the CQC’s website. I was surprised to find the surgery listed under the names of two partners who retired many years ago. If the CQC has inspected this practice, how can they have missed this?

Ian Fraser
Penwortham, Lancashire

SIR – In the Nineties, our practice was advised by the administrators of the Family Practitioners’ Committee to emulate Harold Shipman. According to their statistics, he was an excellent GP.

Dr Thomas L Cooksey
Oldham, Lancashire

SIR – According to the Office for National Statistics, Britain currently has 30.76 million people in work, out of a total population of 64.1 million. The NHS employs 1.7 million workers, according to its website. Therefore, the NHS employs 5.5 per cent of the country’s working population, or just under 2.7 per cent of the entire population. To put it another way, one in every 18 of the working population, or one in every 37 of the entire country works for the NHS. That seems quite a lot to me.

Brian Terry
South Wonston, Hampshire

SIR – The last thing the NHS needs is to have its money spent putting patients’ medical records online. I suggest that patients who want to read their medical records online should obtain copies from their doctors – at a modest charge to cover administrative costs – and then post their details on Twitter. This would circumvent any privacy concerns and prevent further financial waste on another vainglorious IT white elephant.

Richard Motley

British Isil fighters

SIR – Any citizen of this country who, in any way, helps or takes up arms for an enemy of ours is by definition a traitor.

There have always been the strictest laws against this most serious of offences and jihadists returning from Iraq or Syria should be prosecuted under them. New laws to deal with them are not required.

David Whitaker
Chawton, Hampshire

SIR – Under the Foreign Enlistment Act of 1870 it is an offence for any British subject to accept any commission or engagement in the military or naval service of any foreign state at war with any foreign state at peace with Her Majesty.

Anyone guilty of an offence against this Act shall be punishable by fine and imprisonment, or either of such punishments, at the discretion of the court before which the offender is convicted.

This law is still in force, and we are currently at peace with the states of Iraq and Syria.

Tim Devlin
London EC4

Say a little prayer

SIR – During bedtime prayers recently my two-year-old daughter and I were saying the Lord’s Prayer together and I was supplying the first part of each line. It was going well until we got to “Give us this…”

“ …day,” she answered.

“ …our daily…”

“Telegraph”– at which point I was unable to suppress a laugh.

It seems she has spent too much time doing the crossword with Grandma.

Madeleine Murphy
Rugby, Warwickshire

Hearty meals

MasterChef judges: Gregg Wallace, Marcus Wareing and Monica Galetti. Photo: BBC

SIR — I am used to unsuccessful competitors on MasterChef describing themselves as feeling “gutted”.

However, I was alarmed to hear one of the judges exhorting them to “cook their hearts out”.

Michael Stanford
London SE23

SIR – Have any of your readers noticed how many restaurants now charge for “side” orders which used to be included in the price of the main course?

They cannot honestly think that I am going to eat a steak on its own.

Carol Thompson
Shepperton, Middlesex

Appropriate apparel

SIR – With reference to the shirt worn by the Rosetta scientist, Dr Matt Taylor, it might be worth noting that his shirt was made voluntarily by his (female) friend.

This is in contrast to the “This is what a feminist looks like” T-shirts worn by Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and other politicians, which were produced in Third World conditions in exchange for shockingly low wages.

Jonathan Rule

Economic prospects

SIR – David Cameron has warned that a major European slowdown, along with a Japanese recession and China coming off the boil, mean trouble for Britain.

I take issue with this analysis. It is rooted in the ongoing drought in taxable income going to the Treasury, which exaggerates the excessively high level of government borrowing in relation to gross national product.

This is happening because the upsurge in employment has resulted in the utilisation of low-paid workers who are earning below the tax threshold. But this is good news. We can expand the economy without long-term overheating and without putting interest rates up. This prospect gives a long-term opportunity to rectify our debt imbalance.

British politicians of the Eighties and Nineties would have given their eye teeth for problems like ours today.

Robert Alexander

SIR – Labour has always claimed the immense deficit wasn’t their fault because there was a global crash while they were in power.

Yet now that our economy is at risk of declining because the world is heading towards recession, Ed Miliband says the current government would be to blame in such an event.

You can’t have it both ways – either the government is responsible or it isn’t.

Gareth Salter
Thorney, Cambridgeshire

Untidy Britain

SIR – How right R K Hodge is about Singapore.

The place just works – the traffic flows, it’s clean, people are law-abiding and I found it a joy to be there last week among such friendly and helpful people.

My previous visit was as a child in the Fifties, when Britain also had those qualities. Why have we lost them?

A L Knight

SIR – The verges and lay-bys on the highways in America are generally free of litter, unlike those of Britain.

In America there are regular small signs on highways warning that jettisoning litter will result in a substantial fine.

A few similar signs on British highways would serve as a reminder to both the litterbugs and their families, who could help to enforce the law.

Paul d’Apice
Hillsboro, Ohio, USA

Gone to pot

SIR – I am not sure whether we have global warming, cooling, wetting or drying; but in my garden at the moment I have roses out, a narcissus blooming and artichokes that will soon be ready for the pot.

I am rather at a loss as to what to plant, and for when.

Elizabeth Wood
Hitchin, Hertfordshire

Not enough has been done to hold back the flood

Two Somerset residents survey their house during the last bout of flooding . Photo: Alamy

SIR – The Met Office now predicts another exceptionally wet winter in southern Britain.

While much dredging has been undertaken since the floods of last winter, I am far from sure that the same effort has been put into maintaining, repairing, replacing or even introducing for the first time sluice gates at the seaward end of these waterways. It is all very well improving the flow of water into the sea but unless means are in place to prevent the inflow of tidal water, all such efforts will be in vain.

I should welcome confirmation from the Environment Agency that all necessary work on sluice gates has been completed – confirmation that I know would be equally welcome to the residents of the Somerset Levels.

Chris Rome
Thruxton, Hampshire

Is Band Aid designed to help Africans or Geldof?

SIR – Bob Geldof has been painted as a saint but, as Bryony Gordon writes, in reality he has not given much out of his own pocket – it’s ordinary people who have made the sacrifices, not the exceedingly rich Mr Geldof.

It seems that everything Mr Geldof has done has been primarily to promote Mr Geldof. If this means making snide and incorrect statements about other artists, such as Adele, who preferred not to be involved with his project but made a private donation to Oxfam, so be it.

Mr Geldof’s disregard for the public was best demonstrated by his refusal to stop swearing during a recent radio interview.

Miss Gordon should be praised for bringing this sham to our attention, yet I wonder if the marketing machine that Mr Geldof has in place will do everything it can to discredit her as it has tried to do with Adele.

W R Zeller
Groomsport, County Down

SIR – As a pensioner, I have no spare money; I have problems finding money for the upkeep of the house, and body and soul.

Bob Geldof is worth £32 million. One would have thought that, rather than get the common man to give money on his say-so to charity, he could give away millions of pounds to charity and still remain very rich.

J H Moffatt
Bredbury, Cheshire

SIR – An unwanted side-effect of the re-recording of the charity single by Band Aid is the confrontation of age and the passage of time. I clearly remember watching the original 30 years ago, and smirking at the sad middle-aged among us who claimed not to recognise a single performer in the group. That sad middle-aged man is now me.

Benjamin L C Smith
Hedge End, Hampshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – The Irish people have shown incredible restraint over the six years since the emergence of austerity government in the wake of financial irregularities in the Irish banking system and we need to recognise this as tempers threaten to run out of control in the political struggle over water charges. There are two parties to such disputes in any democracy and two parties against which accusations of blameworthiness can be directed.

Dignified protest about the bailout has been present from the beginning, particularly in the inspiring Ballyhea campaign. I believe that there have now been no fewer than 194 serious but entirely law-abiding protests. But what is the attitude of the political establishment to Ballyhea? Little more at its best, it would seem, than benign neglect or indifference. A government has a duty to respond to peaceful protest. A failure to do so in the long run will lead to protests that are far from peaceful.

In the general election of 2011, the Irish people placed their trust to an unusual degree in Labour on the basis of a manifesto which, for example, opposed water charges.

The receipt of water charges that cannot be paid because of previous austerity measures is a threat in itself to people who try to live without debt. This threat seems to have escaped the notice of political elites that are themselves cushioned from such debts.

Finally, Irish taxpayers are not responsible for the debts of foreign bankers or indeed of Irish bankers. It is a failure of democracy to impose these debts upon them. And indeed they are unsustainable as well as intolerable. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 2.

Sir, – For the last few months hundreds of thousands of people in Ireland have protested about the water charges and the handling of the issue. The Government and politicians duly ignored them. I believe that out of a sense of frustration some people have resorted to violent protests. I don’t condone violence, in particular the violence of the protests experienced by the Tánaiste in Jobstown and the Taoiseach in Sligo.

However, the Government and our elected representatives need to hang their heads in shame at what they have driven the people to. Listening, engaging with and treating the people with common courtesy would have had a much better effect than totally disregarding the more than 100,000 peaceful protesters. – Yours, etc,


Achill Island,

Co Mayo.

Sir, – Stephen O’Byrnes’s article is rather odd (“‘Peaceful protest’ over Irish Water is truly a charade”, Opinion & Analysis, November 19th). If there has been such a radical revision of the water scheme, is it not right to assume that protest was justified, and necessary, and that the Government is now acknowledging that its original plan was flawed?

As for his “iPads and iPhones” comment, is it that journalists may use them, but not the demonstrators they are covering? Mr O’Byrnes may as well say that the protesters were “well fed” or had “homes to go to”. As for the lead statement “fomented by extreme left-wing factions . . . to undermine democratic politics”, is that not an adage used by any establishment under pressure?

As for the Joan Burton incident, yes, of course it is bad stuff, inappropriate for this dimension of agitation, and invalid, not least because she clearly has been the most sympathetic voice inside Government of those opposed to the water blunder. Yet if people “lose it” in response to what is felt as unjust, it may be shocking, but isn’t that an occasional feature of politics, and of history? – Yours, etc,


Rathmines, Dublin 6.

Sir, – Capped water charges and deferred bonuses for a fixed period. Can people not see through this ploy? The charge will have to go up at some stage. How else are we going to pay a monopolistic Irish Water’s costs, which include excess staff, gold standard salaries, lucrative bonuses and increments, and all before a drop of water is treated? Surely rationalisation of Irish Water should have been the Government’s priority. At least that way most of the money raised would go to water treatment and delivery. It seems like this is all just a quick fix to get them through the next election. – Yours, etc,


Dalkey, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Unlike a significant number of water protesters, I have no issue with paying for water or indeed providing my PPS number, but I do have major concerns that this Government has set up a behemoth to address the infrastructural problems with our water system. The setting up of Irish Water, with its substantial workforce and vague pay structures, nearly guarantees domestic water charges will be considerably higher in the years to come. Why couldn’t water charges just be included in the property tax, distributed to the local authorities and used to improve the infrastructure?

How much will Irish Water cost to run each year? With the new charges now being proposed, will there be any funds remaining to update the water infrastructure? – Yours, etc,


Donabate, Co Dublin.

Sir, – I am sure that Enda Kenny regrets the “Paddy likes to know” remark (along with many other comments) but he continues to stumble from crisis to crisis.

I understand that Fine Gael finds it galling to be regarded as Fianna Fáil-lite but it took Fianna Fáil a lot longer to lose touch with the people. I don’t mind paying for water but I do mind paying for Irish Water. Irish Water is the manifestation of everything that is wrong with politics and public administration in Ireland and will cause Fine Gael (and its willing partner) to drown. – Yours, etc,


Castleknock, Dublin 15.

Sir, – In the 6th century BC, Pisistratus built the first aqueduct in Athens, allowing a reliable water supply to sustain the large population. He wrote, “Every citizen pays a tithe on his property to a fund for defraying the cost of public sacrifices or any other charges on the state”. He would have fitted meters if they were available! – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – Can Phil Hogan’s “triumphant ride into the sunset” (Michael Harty, November 19th) be further classified as a not-before-time escape (for us), a brain drain (for the government), or an accident waiting to happen for Europe? – Yours, etc,


Dublin 12.

Sir, – In “What’s the big idea? It’s time for the State to consider a real democracy” (Opinion & Analysis, November 18th), Fintan O’Toole suggests that the State should consider real democracy. Yet at no stage does he articulate how this “real democracy” would be delivered and what specific aspects of the current process he would change and how he would change them.

There are failings in the current process, but the primary failing has been in how the system has been used by the voters to make choices that they then deny all responsibility for. We hear much of the failure of the political system to curb the mistakes of the governments from 1997 to 2011 yet little about the failure of the electorate to deliver any electoral admonishment to those same governments.

He says that we should have “a real, vibrant, engaged, republican democracy that is capable of using the energies and ideas – social, political, economic – of all its citizens”. As a road map to how this “real democracy” would be achieved, this is as much use as a faded black-and-white picture of an unidentified beach is in planning a summer holiday.

Democracy is the means by which we can exercise the power to make choices about our present and future as a nation and take the responsibility to live with the consequences of them and to learn from them. We have democracy; what we lack are enough people who are interested in exercising it, in stretching it to its full potential, to make it work for the nation and not just themselves. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 2.

Sir, – The Céifin Centre has been promoting debate on values-led change since 1998, and in this time it has published papers from 80 speakers, national and international. As founder and chairman of the centre, I want to concur with Fintan O’Toole’s suggestion that the next big idea needed to transform Ireland might be democracy itself.

The current protests are clearly not just about Irish Water. They are more about a people who have had enough of the failures of top-down leadership. These amount to a systemic failure which we can see not just in the present controversy, but in our hospitals, in our banks and in the church.

Surely the time has come for a movement that will facilitate local leadership to drive the next, necessary transformation that Irish society so clearly needs. As Mr O’Toole so rightly says, “The evidence is piling up that if the people don’t own the system, they’ll break it.” – Yours, etc,



The Céifin Centre

for Values-Led Change,

Drumgeely Hill,


Co Clare.

Sir, – Last week we were in the public gallery of Dáil Éireann to lend our support to Maíria Cahill during the debate on her rape by a member of the Provisional IRA. Maíria is a brave young woman who is being subjected to a campaign of demonisation which we know only too well.

It is a strange world when those who made victims of the innocent can then claim that they are now the real victims.

Our son Paul was battered to death seven years ago by a gang who told him exactly who they were. When we said exactly who they were, we were accused of political attacks on Sinn Féin, whose name we had never even mentioned. Worst of all, Sinn Féin spokesmen from their president down publicly accused our son of being a criminal before we even had a chance to bury him. They have never withdrawn those slanders.

The campaign of demonisation against our son, our family and our support group has clearly impeded the Garda investigation and reduced the chances of bringing his murderers – more than a dozen of them – to justice. There was no reason for Sinn Féin to get involved in Paul’s case or in Maíria’s case; it chose to do so for its own reasons.

Truly decent people can figure out who the real victims are in these and many other cases. We hope Maíria and those who support her will stand firm and continue to pursue justice. – Yours, etc,




Co Armagh.

Sir, – The Minister for Justice should be encouraged and supported in her legislative efforts to criminalise the buying of sex. Shifting the focus to the buyer, of whom the vast majority are men, allows society to confront the realities surrounding the commodification and the demeaning of sexual relations between women and men.

It also sends a powerful message to a highly lucrative criminal network based on the exploitation of women’s and girl’s bodies. I agree with the statement made recently in the Dáil by the Independent TD Thomas Pringle when he said that “gender equality is not achievable as long as women are for sale”.

Alongside the passing of this important legislation, the Government needs to offer alternatives to women who engage in prostitution by the provision of appropriate health, and social services and opportunities for second-chance education and employment. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 15.

Sir, – The Minister of State for Equality Aodhán Ó Riordáin tells us that Travellers are to be declared a distinct ethnic group (“Traveller ethnicity will be reality in six months, says Ó Riordáin”, November 19th).

One strong reason for not doing this is that those who declare themselves to be Travellers are not a distinct ethnic group – they could not be more Irish.

The Census 2011 reveals that self-declared Travellers belong to the lowest socioeconomic category as measured by life expectancy, health, education and workforce participation. To declare them a distinct ethnic group risks perpetuating disadvantage. The Government should promote upward social mobility, equality and integration for all citizens.

Countries such as India that struggle to shed the legacy of a caste system will be shocked by a developed country about to introduce one.– Yours, etc,



Dublin 5.

Sir, – Frank McNally (An Irishman’s Diary, November 15th) references “Cut-Throat Lane East”, “Cut-Throat Lane West” and “Murdering Lane” in his piece on Dublin life and conditions in the late 1700s and early 1800s. My research indicates Brookfield Road and Old Kilmainham as their modern counterparts.

On this theme, I would add “Hangman’s Lane” (now Hammond Lane), “Gallows Road” (now Lower Baggot Street), and “Gibbet Meadow” (now Mespil Road). – Yours, etc,


Rathfarnham, Dublin 16.

Sir, – The case between Dr Micheline Sheehy-Skeffington and NUI Galway has highlighted, once more, what has been patently obvious in the Irish university sector for many decades now (“NUI Galway ordered to promote lecturer overlooked over gender”, November 18th). Female academics holding permanent senior positions such as senior lecturer, professor or dean are rare in Ireland. Female academics who are parents of young children occupying permanent senior positions are rarer still. What does this communicate to the student population, which, by contrast, displays an equal male-female balance from undergraduate through to post-doctoral levels when overall university intake figures are considered? – Yours, etc,


Dromahair, Co Leitrim.

Sir, – Minister for Children Dr James Reilly apparently believes that no provision can be made through tax credits or tax returns for tax relief on childcare costs because it discriminates against stay at home parents (“Government officials rule out tax relief for childcare”, November 17th, 2014).

There is tax relief on bicycle purchases and public transport through employment schemes. This discriminates against those not in employment.

Did it not occur to Dr Reilly or his officials that the families on one income while one parent is at home are the very families in dire need of tax relief? – Yours, etc,



Sir, – Frank McNally (An Irishman’s Diary, November 19th) uses a light-hearted approach while raising the important issue of prostate screening. His message is clear and succinct. The late Prof John Fitzpatrick – professor of surgery at the Mater Hospital, Dublin, and a world leader in prostate cancer research – continuously advocated for digital rectal examination (DRE) over blood testing and thankfully, as GPs, we are now in an environment to follow this advice and recommend a DRE in the first instance.

It is a well-tolerated, brief and hugely revealing examination that men should discuss openly with their friends and GPs alike. No embarrassment or comic relief is necessary when considering it. – Yours, etc,


Strandhill, Co Sligo.

Sir, – So the Government has published proposals for the 1916 commemoration ceremonies and the relatives don’t like them so they propose to have separate ceremonies of their own (November 15th)?

Oh dear, the irony of it. What better way to remember the men of 1916 than with a split! – Yours, etc,




Irish Independent:

I was taken aback to see representatives of Childline on the ‘Late Late Show’. The reason they were on the programme was because they are in danger of not being able to keep their telephone lines – and staff to man them – going beyond January 2015, due to the lack of funds.

Childline is not funded by the Government and is the only organisation of its kind in Europe that does not have government funding.

Childline is a vital service for children who are being raped, abused and bullied to telephone and connect with an adult who will listen to their pain and be there for them and encourage them to speak to other adults who may be able to help them.

Is this the same Government that is recently taking abuses, rapes and the suffering of adults who were abused as children with such seriousness that they are speaking out about it every other day in Dail Eireann?

The same Government that is meeting with abused people and speaking of their suffering with such eloquence and seriousness?

Is this the same Government that is withdrawing funding from Rape Crisis Centres where people are now on waiting lists for their services?

I find it very difficult to add these two governments together. The one that speaks so seriously about the damage and pain caused to people when they were children, the one that talks the talk but when it comes to walking the walk – by providing services for today’s children – they are cutting funding and, in Childline’s case, not funding them at all.

If only they would act with the same passion by putting their money where their mouths are, then today’s children would have such a better chance of growing into adulthood less troubled and traumatised.

They should all be ashamed of their lack of action. For God’s sake, give Childline the funding it requires.

Anne Hennessy

Callan Co Kilkenny

So what else can go wrong?

The attempted introduction of water charges in its present form was wrong. The type of protest in Tallaght last Saturday was wrong. The point scoring re the Mairia Cahill case is wrong.

The eviction of people from their homes by order of the courts is wrong. The attempt by Taoiseach Enda Kenny to have a friend elected senator was wrong.

The present Government’s continued adherence to agreements signed by the last government with the IMF/EU/ECB is totally wrong.

The present medical card system is not just wrong, it is bordering on a criminal offence against the old and the sick – the poorest members of our society.

The salaries paid to ministers is wrong and disgusting, especially when they attempt to tell the citizens that “we know how you feel”. They then ask our youth to go out and work for nothing while at the same time telling us that we have fully recovered from austerity.

If our country is run by what we see and hear in Dail Eireann then it’s no wonder we are in the mess we are in. Many years ago, during times of poverty, we all escaped and laughed at the antics of the Three Stooges – Curly, Moe and Larry

The patriots of 100 years ago fought hard to relieve us from a foreign power to rightfully allow us to govern ourselves. We’ve repaid them by handing back that power for the sacredness of the mighty euro.

I wonder what the Three Stooges’ next picture will be?

Fred Molloy

Dublin 15

Split over Rising celebrations

So the Government has published proposals for the 1916 commemoration ceremonies and the relatives of those who fought in the Rising don’t like them. So they have proposed to have separate ceremonies of their own.

Oh dear, the irony of it.

What better way to remember the men of 1916 than with a split!

Brendan Casserly

Bishopstown, Cork

No bull, life is great these days

It seems the only one that is happy in Ireland these days is Benji the gay bull.

Kevin Devitte

Westport, County Mayo

Every baby’s life counts

We are families whose children were diagnosed with life-limiting conditions, such as anencephaly, or Trisomy 18 or 13.

Because of this, our children have been labelled as ‘incompatible with life’, a medically meaningless, cruel and hurtful term. We call on all medical, legal and media professionals to immediately cease the use of the phrase ‘incompatible with life’, which is not a medical diagnosis, and which is used to deny the humanity of our children and the value of their lives.

Some of our children’s lives were all-too-short, but they never knew anything but love. We had the chance to hold them in our arms, to meet them and surround them with love, even if only for a brief time, and that meant everything to us. Our children are carved in our hearts forever.

We have listened with concern, then, to the debate on legalising abortion for children with profound disabilities.

We understand, better than most, that receiving a diagnosis of a limited life for your child is a hugely upsetting experience, and that parents need better care at this time.

Most of all, parents need to be given factual information and support. Too often, they are nudged and pushed towards abortion and are denied the precious time that we experienced with our children; a time which helped us to heal.

In particular, we have recently seen commentators claim that we caused our children pain because we did not abort them, while others have insisted that our children were ‘incompatible with life’, and were dismissive of the view that their lives had value.

The first allegation is simply dreadful and has caused huge distress to parents who have already lost their children. Children born with a life-limiting condition are entitled to the best care possible. Our babies were made comfortable after they were born, and those who passed away did so peacefully in our arms. In sharp contrast, abortion ends the life of a child with a profound disability in the same manner as it does for any unborn child, and in this case these are often late-term abortions. Secondly, the truth is that there is no condition, none whatsoever, where a medical professional can say that a child will certainly die before birth.

Some of our children spent just hours or days in their parents’ arms before they passed away. Others defied all expectations and lived for much longer. Kathleen Rose Harkin has just celebrated her eighth birthday with Trisomy 13, often described as a ‘fatal foetal abnormality’, while Elaine Fagan made medical history living for 25 years with Trisomy 18, or Edwards Syndrome.

Over 90pc of Irish parents facing a life-limiting diagnosis continue with their pregnancy. The phrase ‘incompatible with life’, must cease to be used immediately, since it is unhelpful, misleading and hurtful. Our children’s disability may have been profound, but they were alive and kicking in the womb.

These are our most special children. They deserve better than abortion. Their families, like ours, deserve better care and support, following the model of perinatal hospice care. Most of all, families deserve not to be misinformed, and to have their children’s lives respected.

Tracy Harkin

Every Life Counts,

41 Dominick St Lower, Dublin 1

Irish Independent


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 30 other followers